General Assembly Unanimously Adopts Texts on Combating Islamophobia, Protecting Rangelands, Tackling Difficulties for Widows, Bicycles as Public Transportation
A resolution proclaiming 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly today, along with three other texts addressing the difficulties facing widows, the preservation of rangelands and a call to integrate bicycles into public transportation methods.
The representative of Pakistan, introducing the resolution calling for establishing the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, said Islamophobia has emerged as a new form of racism that includes, among others, discriminatory travel bans, hate speech and the targeting of girls and women for their dress. The text called for expanded international efforts to create a global dialogue that will encourage tolerance and peace centred on respect for human rights and the diversity of religions and beliefs.
The representative of Guyana said the designation of an international day is an important way to counter Islamophobia and its negative trends, such as limited access to housing, education and employment. Global action will help counter increasing acts of violence against Muslims and Muslim communities around the world, she said.
However, the representative of France noted that Islamophobia has no agreed definition in international law. France supports the protection of all religions and beliefs, he said, adding that his delegation had proposed a text that endorsed the freedom of all religions and beliefs. The creation of an international day does not respond to concerns to counter all forms of discrimination, he stressed.
The representative of Nigeria introduced the draft resolution addressing the difficulties facing widows in certain parts of the world, which was also adopted by consensus. Spotlighting those difficulties, he pointed to the absence of high-quality data and gender statistics on the estimates of widowhood and particular information on the needs and roles of widows, which, in turn, prevented comprehensive and useful analysis and policy action. Having such data would help ensure widows were accounted for now and in the future and would help in closing the gap in gender inequality.
The representative of Sierra Leone, recalling that his country has been a torch bearer on this issue, noted that Sierra Leone has an uncountable number of widows after enduring a civil war that ended two decades ago, the Ebola crisis and the Covid—19 pandemic. This resolution helps make women powerful actors in their communities and their countries, he said.
Following the introduction of the text on rangelands by Mongolia’s delegate, the General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution declaring 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. In his introduction, he pointed out that pastureland accounts for more than half of the world’s land and more than 200 million people around the globe raise livestock in pastoral and agro-pastoral systems.
The representative of Turkmenistan, introducing the resolution on integrating bicycles into public transportation methods in urban and rural locales around the globe, noted the bicycle has been a major mode of transportation for 140 years and offers health benefits, convenience and accessibility for millions of people, as well as supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The General Assembly then turned its attention to the election of members of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) to six-year terms that begin on 27 June. That date corresponds with the first day of the Commission’s fifty-fifth session. In December 2021, the Assembly decided to increase the body’s membership from 60 to 70 States.
However, the election of a representative of Belarus to one of the five seats designated for Eastern European States prompted several delegates to dissociate themselves from participating in consensus.
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that Belarus’ participation in the military aggression of the Russian Federation was a flagrant violation of international law and undermined international stability and security.
The representative of Ukraine dissociated his delegation from the consensus as well, stressing that Belarus’ actions were an attack on the Charter of the United Nations. The election of a representative of Belarus to the Commission was unethical and immoral.
The representative of Belarus, in response, said the General Assembly should avoid the politicization of issues when they were irrelevant to a meeting’s subject. Belarus remains committed to international law, he said.
The appointment of a representative from the Russian Federation to fill one of four vacancies on the Joint Inspection Unit also prompted several delegates to dissociate themselves from the Assembly’s decision.
The representative of Australia, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, condemned the unprovoked and illegal attack on Ukraine and dissociated the delegations for which he was speaking from consensus.
The United Kingdom’s delegate reminded the Assembly that the international community had called on the Russian Federation to withdraw from its unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Concerned with lies propagated in the Assembly or any forum, he said the Russian Federation remains in breach of the Charter. Therefore, he disassociated his delegation from consensus.
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret over the elections’ politicization and the mendacious allegations. Further, he noted that the Russian candidate being discussed has a great deal experience. There was no doubt he will make a great contribution to the Joint Inspection Unit, he said.
The Assembly closed its session with the appointments of Costa Rica, Croatia, Mauritius, Senegal, Sweden and the United States as members of the Board of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns. The appointments begin 15 March and expire on 14 March 2022.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Iran, Syria, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Algeria, Malaysia, Jordan, Qatar, Morocco, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United States. An observer for the Holy See also spoke.
The General Assembly will convene again at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, 18 March, to mark the annual commemorative meeting during the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African States, introduced the resolution “Addressing the situation of widows” (document A/76/L.40). He stressed that life for widows in many parts of the world was negatively affected by various economic, social and cultural factors, such as lack of access to inheritance, land tenure, employment and/or livelihood, social safety nets, health care and education, among others. He also highlighted the absence of high-quality, reliable, timely and disaggregated data and gender statistics on the estimates of widowhood and particular information on the needs and roles of widows, which prevents comprehensive and useful analysis and policy action. Having such data would help ensure widows were accounted for, now and in the future, and would help in closing the gap in gender inequality.
By the text, the General Assembly, among other things, called upon the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, within their respective mandates, to acknowledge the situation of widows and urgently address all forms of discrimination, violence, marginalization, stigmatization and exclusion experienced in certain parts of the world by widows of all ages and to work towards eliminating all forms of discrimination against widows and ending harmful practices.
The General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus.
The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of vote, said his country is dedicated to removing barriers to women. The empowerment of women and girls, particularly widows, is an important part of the country’s economic, legislative and political agenda. Regarding this resolution, he clarified that Iran only recognizes and considers the provisions that are in accordance with its national priorities, regulations, legislation and policies as well as Islamic principles, instructions, and teachings as well as religious norms, traditions and values of Iranian society.
The representative of Sierra Leone, aligning himself with the African States, expressed profound gratitude to the African Group for supporting this groundbreaking resolution since July 2021. Sierra Leone has been a torch bearer for this issue and will continue to be so. It has been two decades since the end of his country’s civil war. The war, along with the Ebola crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, has created an uncountable number of widows in Sierra Leone. This resolution helps make women powerful actors in their communities and their countries.
The observer for the Holy See, speaking after adoption, welcomed the positive elements in the text that help prevent violence against widows and their children and provide social protection and prevent legal discrimination to inheritance rights. However, it did not support ambiguous terminology to regarding health and pregnancy or gender identity, he said.
The representative of Mongolia, introducing the resolution “International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists, 2026” (document A/76/L.36), pointed out that pastureland accounts for more than half of the world's land. The number of people raising livestock in pastoral and agro-pastoral systems is estimated at over 200 million across all regions globally, and their practices vary according to the diversity of ecosystems. Having been impacted by “benign neglect” for generations, pastoralists and rangelands are facing increasing climate variability, land degradation and insecure tenure rights, as well as limited access to markets, education, and health services.
On a national level, he said that Mongolia, with 77 per cent of the country’s land facing desertification and overgrazing, has set a goal of preserving traditional nomadic heritage, ecologically friendly, sustainable and organic animal husbandry and promoting nomadic animal heritage to the world. The proclamation of the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists in 2026 will encourage more countries to enhance awareness and knowledge of the sustainability of rangelands and pastoralists during and beyond the designated year.
By the text, the General Assembly, among other things, declared 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists, and invited all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, other international and regional organizations and other relevant stakeholders, including civil society, the private sector and academia, to observe the International Year, as appropriate, through activities aimed at raising awareness and the visibility of and directing attention to the relevance of the sustainable management of rangelands and pastoralism and its contribution to achieving sustainable development.
The General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus.
The representative of Pakistan introduced the resolution “International Day to Combat Islamophobia” (document A/76/L.41). Islamophobia is a reality, he stressed, noting that his country’s President [Arif Alvi] has repeatedly called for efforts to address the phenomenon. Hate speech, discrimination and violence are proliferating in several parts of world, causing great anguish in the Islamic world. The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief has noted that since 9/11, terrorist attacks and other violations have escalated to epidemic proportions. Muslims often experience stigma, negative stereotyping and shame, feeling like suspect communities bearing collective responsibility for the actions of a fringe minority.
Islamophobia has emerged as a new form of racism, with an added gender aspect, as girls and women are targeted due to their dress and the notion that they are oppressed, he continued. Islamophobia is also finding purchase in the political sphere, including discriminatory travel bans and visa restrictions, and discourse among far-right groups for electoral gains. The situation remains poorly understood, he affirmed, with numerous United Nations officials and world leaders underscoring the need to address it.
By the text, the General Assembly, among other things, decided to proclaim 15 March the International Day to Combat Islamophobia and called for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue on the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and the diversity of religions and beliefs.
The General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus.
The representative of India, speaking in explanation of vote, expressed deep concern over intolerance and violence directed at various communities around the world. India is a pluralistic country, he said, home to almost all religions of the world. While there was a global rise in sectarian violence, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia, anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh examples abound as well. It was time to acknowledge the abundance of phobias, rather than just one form; the resolution elevating one phobia to an international day may downplay the seriousness of phobias towards all other religions. Noting there is already an International Day of Tolerance on 16 November, he called on Member States to always be inclusive, especially in the United Nations. While his delegation believes in pluralism, he noted there was no mention of that word in the text, he said.
The representative of France, speaking in explanation of vote, aligned himself with the statement to be made by the European Union. Islamophobia has no agreed definition in international law. France supports the protection of all religions and beliefs. However, the creation of an international day does not respond to concerns to fight against all forms of discrimination. His delegation had proposed a text that endorsed the freedom of religion and belief, he said, voicing his regret that none of those proposals were taken into account. All discrimination should be condemned with equal condemnation and vigour. Although the proposals had not been considered, his delegation decided not to oppose the resolution’s adoption, he said.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, spoke after adoption, stressing that the bloc is strongly opposed to all forms of hostility and violence. However, he noted his concern with the approach of singling out one religion. This approach risks undermining the universal approach. There should be a right to debate and criticize religion. While not all concerns were taken into account, nonetheless, the European Union delegation decided not to oppose consensus today, he said.
The representative of Turkey said the resolution is intended not to divide but unite. Islamophobia is an injustice plaguing humanity, a rising threat taking many forms, including racism, xenophobia and violence. Examples abound in textbooks and social media, but often receive little attention, with women and girls who are targeted not even receiving protection or empathy. “We can never allow hate to take over society,” he said. It is incumbent upon all to take every measure to defend places of worship, defend human rights and combat intolerance.
The representative of Indonesia, speaking as a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, voiced concern over the issue, stating the adoption of the resolution is heartening. The International Day seeks to promote understanding. Indonesia hosts the world’s largest Muslim population, among other religions and beliefs. It is important to promote trust between peoples and cultures and construct positive narratives around Islam, he said, voicing hope that the international community will stand united and create a world of harmony.
The representative of Iran said the growing discrimination against Muslims is daunting. The United Nations needs to strongly condemn hate speech and actions against Muslims and address the discrimination against Muslims. Terrorism in all its forms should not be associated with any civilization or ethnic group. Iran supports all initiatives to challenge this trend, he said, conveying his country’s determination to constructively address Islamophobia around the world.
The representative of Guyana said any form of discrimination is an act against human rights. There are growing acts of violence against Muslims and Muslim communities around the world. Guyana supports global action to counter this trend, she said. The designation of an international day is an important way to fight this scourge to counter Islamophobia and the negative trends associated with Islamophobia, such as limited access to housing, education and employment.
The representative of Jordan said this resolution is a landmark event and sends a message that hate speech will not be tolerated by the international community. It is an important step to creating social inclusion and a culture of peace. Negative stereotyping is a tool for recruitment by extremists. Jordan is at the forefront of combating Islamophobia and promoting social inclusion and forging the common aim to create international peace, he said.
The representative of Qatar welcomed the adoption of this resolution by consensus. The initiative helps to promote a culture of peace in the face of discrimination. Qatar has created programs and institutions to build nations and people. The resolution demonstrates concerns regarding discrimination against Muslims because of Islamophobia. It will help create an international dialogue that promotes peace, he said.
The representative of Morocco welcomed the consensus adoption, a reflection of the commitment of the international community to counter Islamophobia and promote a culture of peace. The international day should also be a moment of reflection and dialogue between religions and civilizations, promoting tolerance and coexistence.
The representative of Iraq said hate speech and Islamophobia are growing in the world, requiring a message of tolerance between religions. Incitement must stop, as it impacts local, regional and international peace and security. The resolution is a message of solidarity, he said, adding that his Government undertakes to fight all hate speech and incitement to violence against all religions. He pointed the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq on 16 February as an example of this national approach and an illustration of a day of tolerance in his country.
The representative of Egypt voiced his support for the resolution, adding his rejection of all forms of racism and discrimination. There are negative stereotypes against Muslims. With this resolution, the international community is paying attention to this phenomenon and rejects it. The resolution reflects serious efforts to counter Islamophobia and welcomes the efforts of the Secretary-General in this regard.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said the resolution is a step forward and corrects wrong thinking. The resolution reaffirms that it is important to correct the mix-up of Islam with terrorism. Saudi Arabia has refused extremism in all its forms, he said. Further, his country will mobilize the efforts of the international community to create a dialogue of international peace which protects the rights of everyone. The adoption by consensus shows the intention for a dialogue for a life without racism.
The representative of Oman said there is a clear reality, reflected in a number of resolutions, that Islamophobia is a growing phenomenon affecting the rights of millions of people around the world. Covering up that phenomenon with different wordings such as “freedom of expression” will counteract the principles of the United Nations. He stressed the need to avoid attacking the symbols of any religion or belief, stating that respect is an obligation and coexistence a necessity.
The representative of Turkmenistan introduced the resolution “Integration of mainstream bicycling into public transportation systems for sustainable development” (document A/76/L.35) and highlighted the broad regional support for the resolution, including from 50 Member States. The bicycle was invented 200 years ago and for 140 years has been a major mode of transportation, with 1 billion bicycles worldwide and 50 per cent of humanity able to access cycling.
She cited convenience, health benefits and accessibility, and voiced hope that cycling will take on a larger role, as it also helps to cut greenhouse gases worldwide. However, many developing countries still face difficulties in this domain, with the bicycle still seen as form of sport rather than transport. This must change especially in context of the pandemic, which has altered transport needs and behaviours. She called on Member States to support and accompany cycling initiatives by promoting increased road safety and investment in urban infrastructure, advancing cross-cutting strategies and including such initiatives in public policy.
By the text, the General Assembly, among other things, invited all Member States to integrate the bicycle into public transportation in urban and rural settings in developing and developed countries, improve road safety and promote the use of bicycles by people and businesses to increase bicycle trips which, in turn, contributes to the achievement of sustainable development, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus.
Election of Members of United Nations Commission on International Trade Law
The Assembly then took up “Election of members of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law”, with the President of the General Assembly recalling that the Assembly, by resolution A/RES/76/109 of 9 December 2021, decided to increase membership of the Commission from 60 to 70 States. Of the 10 additional members, five — one from each regional group — were to be elected during the seventy-sixth session of the General Assembly, taking place today, increasing the number of seats to be filled by each regional group as follows: African States, from seven to eight seats; Asia-Pacific States, from seven to eight seats; Eastern European States, from four to five seats; Latin American and Caribbean States, from five to six seats; and Western European and other States, from seven to eight seats. The remaining five additional members will be elected during the seventy-ninth session of the General Assembly.
He announced that for the African States, the following eight endorsed candidates were elected to the Secretariat: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia and Uganda.
He went on to say that for the eight seats from the Asia-Pacific States, the following eight endorsed candidates were elected: Afghanistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Turkmenistan.
He also noted that for the five seats from Eastern European States, the following five candidates were elected: Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Poland
He said that for the six seats from Latin American and Caribbean States, the following six candidates were elected: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela.
He also announced that for the eight seats from the Western European and other States, the following seven candidates were elected: Australia, Austria, Israel, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United States.
Since the number of candidates corresponded to or was fewer than the number of seats to be filled from each group, he he said he understood that the Assembly wished to elect those candidates for a six-year term beginning on 27 June 2022, which corresponds with the first day of the fifty-fifth session of the Commission, and expiring on the last day prior to the beginning of the sixty-first session of the Commission in 2028.
He further reminded the Assembly that one vacancy remains to be filled for a term beginning on 27 June 2022 and expiring on the last day prior to the beginning of the sixty-first session of the Commission in 2028 from among the Western European and other States.
The representative of Ukraine, speaking in explanation of position, dissociated his delegation from the consensus electing Belarus to the Commission. That country’s actions in Ukraine have been a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and an attack against the Charter. Thus, the election of a representative of Belarus to the Commission is unethical and immoral.
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, underscored the responsibility of the bloc to uphold the principles of the Charter. The military aggression of the Russian Federation and the participation of that aggression by Belarus is a flagrant violation of international law. It undermines international stability and security. Therefore, the European Union dissociates itself from the election of Belarus to the Commission, he said.
The representative of the United States said that his delegation dissociated from consensus in light of Belarus’ role in the invasion of Ukraine.
The representative of Australia, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, said that, while they joined consensus in supporting the candidates from the Eastern European States, such support should not be seen as tacit approval of the appointment of Belarus to the Commission. Thus, he dissociated the delegations for which he was speaking from consensus in regard to that appointment. He reiterated support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its people.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the Belarussian regime is in clear violation of international law and dissociated his delegation from consensus regarding that country’s election to the Commission.
The representative of Iran said that his delegation was not objecting to the endorsement of the Group of Western European States and other States and was not requesting a second ballot for new members from this region. However, he noted that joining consensus on new members from this group should not be construed as recognition of the Israeli regime. Thus, his delegation was dissociating itself from consensus on the election of Israel to the Commission.
The representative of Belarus said the General Assembly should avoid the politicization of issues in the Assembly when they are not relevant to the subject of the meeting. This is a biased approach, particularly for countries from the West. Belarus remains committed to international law, he said.
The representative of Japan said Belarus has allowed Russian troops to pass through its territory to attack Ukraine. Therefore, his delegation dissociated itself from the election of Belarus to the Commission and urged that country to heed the call of the overwhelming voice of the international community as reflected in the resolution adopted on 2 March.
The representative of the Russian Federation said Member States were again confronted by another unacceptable example of the politicization of the General Assembly. Any State that has the right to participate in the Assembly has the right to be elected. States levelling allegations against Belarus are trying to settle scores. The history of the situation in Ukraine is well known to everyone, and the speakers are exacting some kind of revenge against Belarus, which is a great pity. Peace in Ukraine will come, and many States will regret the position they took at this time, he noted.
Appointments to Joint Inspection Unit
The General Assembly appointed by consensus four members to fill four vacancies on the Joint Inspection Unit. The members, appointed for five-year terms that begin 1 January 2023 and end on 31 December 2027, are: Conrod C. Hunte (Antigua and Barbuda); Gaeimelwe Goitsemang (Botswana); Mohanad Ali Omran Al-Musawi (Iraq) and Pavel Chernikov (Russian Federation).
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union and in explanation of position, said the Russian Government has shown its distain for human lives and humanitarian international law. In its 2 March resolution, the General Assembly asked the Russian Federation to withdraw its forces from the borders of the Ukraine. Thus, the bloc dissociated itself from the consensus to appoint the representative of the Russian Federation to the Joint Inspection Unit, he said. Further, he said that the Russian Federation delegate, as a member of the Unit, should carry out his duties in an independent manner, free of any politics.
The representative of Ukraine said it does not support in any circumstance the appointment of the Russian Federation to the Joint Inspection Unit. Citing the increasing large-scale aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, including shelling of critical civilian infrastructure, he said the appointment was unethical and immoral. Therefore, his delegation dissociated itself from the appointment, he said.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the international community had called on the Russian Federation to withdraw from its unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which it has not done. Voicing concern over lies propagated in the Assembly or in any forum, he stated the Russian Federation remains in breach of the Charter. Therefore, he disassociated his delegation from consensus.
The representative of Australia, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, condemned the unprovoked and illegal attack on Ukraine and dissociated the delegations for which he was speaking from consensus in regard to the appointment of a Russian Federation national to the Joint Inspection Unit.
The representative of the Russian Federation pointed out that his delegation had already spoken on the issue of elections and was not going to repeat those comments. However, he expressed regret over politicization of the elections and the voicing of mendacious allegations. The Russian candidate being discussed has a great deal experience; there is no doubt he will make a great contribution to the Joint Inspection Unit, he said.
The representative of Syria said some delegates are diverting from the issue now before the General Assembly. They are discussing a political issue, and this is not the forum to talk about these issues, he said, calling on delegations to stick to the subject on hand. Further, he condemned what has been said about the Russian Federation. If delegates are going to condemn the Russian Federation for aggression, then Syria will condemn the Israeli aggression against Syria and the Turkish and United States occupation in the north and east of Syria, he said.
Appointments to Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption
The General Assembly then considered “Appointment of members of the Board of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns”, with the President of the General Assembly recalling that the Assembly, by resolution A/RES/67/203 of 21 December 2012, decided to establish the 10-member Board, consisting of two members from each United Nations regional group, and further decided, by resolution A/RES/69/214 of 19 December 2014, that the duration of subsequent terms for members of the Board shall continue to be two years, starting on 16 September of every second year. United Nations regional groups may re-nominate one of their existing two members of the Board for one consecutive term, while ensuring that no Member State may be eligible to serve more than two consecutive terms and taking into account the importance of ensuring continuity and rotation in the work of the Board.
As outlined in the letter from the President of the General Assembly dated 31 January, he proposed that the two-year term of the members of the Board shall begin on the date of their appointment, today. The General Assembly then appointed Costa Rica, Croatia, Mauritius, Senegal, Sweden and the United States as members of the Board for a term beginning on 15 March and ending on 14 March 2024. He reminded Member States that vacancies remain to be filled for a term beginning on the date of their appointment and expiring on 14 March 2024 by two members from among the Asia-Pacific States, one member from among the Eastern European States and one member from among the Latin American and Caribbean States.