General Assembly Adopts Text Recommending Creation of Register to Document Damages Caused by Russian Federation Aggression against Ukraine, Resuming Emergency Special Session
As part of its ongoing emergency special session on Ukraine, the General Assembly today recommended Member States create an international register of damage to serve as a record of evidence and claims information.
By the terms of the text, titled “Furtherance of remedy and reparation for aggression against Ukraine” — adopted by a recorded vote of 94 in favour to 14 against, with 73 abstentions — the Assembly recognized that the Russian Federation must be held to account for any violations of international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law in or against Ukraine. The Assembly further recognized the need for the establishment of an international mechanism for reparation for damage, loss or injury arising from the Russian Federation’s internationally wrongful acts.
The Assembly also reaffirmed its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine and demanded that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force and completely and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces from that country’s territory.
Many delegates expressed their support for the establishment of a registry while others voiced their concern over the resolution’s divisiveness and dangerous precedent in allowing the establishment of a mechanism that is not accountable to the Assembly. Several delegations spotlighted the hypocrisy and double standards of the resolution’s sponsors.
Introducing the text (document A/ES-11/L.6), the representative of Ukraine noted that the Soviet Union demanded and received reparations 77 years ago as the moral right of a country which has suffered war and occupation. Ukraine’s recovery will never be complete without a sense of justice for the victims of the Russian Federation’s war, he underscored while emphasizing that the resolution is concerned with ensuring an appropriate response that averts any aggressor’s temptation to start a war. A vote against this proposal will be a vote in favour of impunity and lawlessness, he cautioned.
As an important step towards peace and post-conflict recovery, the text is very carefully drafted and does not exceed the Assembly’s authority, Guatemala’s minister noted.
It is very straightforward, Albania’s speaker explained: aggression has happened; extensive damage has been inflicted; and it must be documented for the purposes of reparation and accountability.
“It is not enough if the perpetrators only admit their wrongdoings. It is not enough if they express remorse. Moral gestures are welcome but never enough. It is material compensation which is needed to rebuild damages caused by wars,” Poland’s speaker stressed.
“The flawed nature of this initiative is obvious,” the Russian Federation’s delegate countered, noting that the United Nations would have no role in the establishment of a mechanism created by a group of States which will decide its functioning. The West is attempting to use the Assembly as a smokescreen to conceal an act of open robbery intended to draw out the conflict. He went on to say that most developing countries probably think it is ludicrous or insulting for Western countries to demand reparations.
Elaborating on the text’s flaws, the speaker for China noted that the invoked articles on the responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts have no legally binding status as the research products of the International Law Commission. The Assembly is not a judicial body, he stressed, while his colleague from Eritrea agreed on behalf of a group of like-minded countries. Its resolutions cannot go beyond its mandate and responsibilities to serve as the legal basis for defining internationally wrongful acts, she emphasized. States suffering from foreign interference, colonialism, slavery, oppression, unilateral coercive measures, illegal blockades and other internationally wrongful acts also deserve the right for remedy, reparation and justice, she added.
Will Cuba be compensated for the damage accumulated over six decades of an economic, commercial and financial blockade; the lives lost; and the illegal occupation of its national territory?, that country’s speaker asked. What about Mexico, Viet Nam, the Pacific Islands, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and the State of Palestine? he continued. Creating a reparation mechanism for one specific conflict while ignoring many other historical, legitimate and well-documented demands is unjust, morally unacceptable and damaging to the Assembly’s credibility, he emphasized.
Echoing the concern over the “message of exceptionalism”, the representative for South Africa pointed out the lack of clarity on the mechanism’s composition and eventual legal status.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Latvia (on behalf of Nordic-Baltic countries), Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, Viet Nam, Australia, Canada, Slovakia, Italy, Ireland, Syria, Nicaragua, Romania, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, France, Netherlands, Belarus, Iran, the United States and the European Union, in its capacity as observer.
An observer for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance also spoke.
The representatives of the Bahamas (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Mexico, Venezuela, Egypt, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Pakistan, Kenya, Brunei Darussalam, Argentina, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Bahrain spoke in explanation of vote.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 15 November, to consider the election of members to the Committee for Programme and Coordination and appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences, the United Nations Appeals Tribunal, the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the Joint Inspection Unit. The Assembly will also take up the related reports of those bodies and the reports of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
Introduction of Draft Resolution
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine), introducing the draft resolution titled “Furtherance of remedy and reparation for aggression against Ukraine” (document A/ES-11/L.6), noted that the Soviet Union demanded and received reparations 77 years ago as the moral right of a country which has suffered war and occupation. Today, the Russian Federation is doing everything it can to avoid paying the price for its own war and occupation, he said, before referencing that country’s words and stance on the creation of the United Nations Compensation Commission for any damage, loss or injury arising out of Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait. From day one of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Federation has thrown bombs, missiles and shells at Ukrainian cities and villages; destroyed roads, bridges and railways; demolished almost half of Ukraine’s power grid and utilities; and committed murder, rape, torture, forced deportation and looting. Ukraine’s recovery will never be complete without a sense of justice for the victims of the Russian Federation’s war, he said, while urging the Assembly to hold that country accountable. The Russian Federation prefers impunity to accountability and knows only two things — lies and veto — when it comes to the Security Council’s processes, he said.
The proposed resolution, he noted, calls for Member States to build the legitimate international infrastructure which addresses the consequences of the Russian Federation’s aggression against his country, records evidence of atrocities and preserves the hope for justice for millions whose lives have been forever changed. It is about an appropriate response which averts the temptation of any aggressor in starting a war, he emphasized. He then reaffirmed his country’s commitment to a transparent, impartial and objective process managed and overseen by the international community and expressed his hope for cooperation from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in assessing damages. A vote against this proposal will be a vote in favour of impunity and lawlessness, he cautioned.
MARIO ADOLFO BÚCARO FLORES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said that, as a country that in its own history has experienced a lot of conflict, Guatemala acknowledges the importance of peace and respect for human rights. The draft resolution is a step towards reconciliation among the parties. Considering that the text includes civilian claims, it is an important step towards peace and post-conflict recovery. As a country that strongly believes in multilateralism, Guatemala is convinced that the Assembly has the mandate and authority to adopt the draft, as set out in Chapter Four of the United Nations Charter. The language of the text is very carefully drafted and does not exceed the authority of the General Assembly. He called on all Member States to support the initiative, because “it is the right thing to do”. The Assembly cannot remain paralyzed or inactive.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), offering to correct gaffes in Ukraine’s statement, called the draft resolution a classic example of a rules-based order in which a narrow group of States attempts to consecrate something that is illegal while also positioning the Assembly as a judicial body, which it is not. “The flawed nature of this initiative is obvious,” he said, emphasizing that the draft resolution tries to legalize something which, from the point of view of international law, cannot be legalized. Moreover, if adopted, the text will have consequences for the co-sponsors which, like a boomerang, will go back on them. The “so-called international mechanism” would be created by a group of States that will decide its functioning and designate the guilty parties and the amount of reparations. The United Nations will play no role in that process, there will be no accountability to the Assembly and most Member States will have no right to any control over the mechanism, he added.
The Russian Federation has no doubt that the funds for damage compensation will be drawn from frozen, or rather stolen, Russian assets worth billions of dollars, he said, adding that the West is attempting to use the Assembly as a smokescreen to conceal an act of open robbery that is intended to draw out the conflict. This will increase global tensions and instability, but the beneficiaries will be Western military corporations that have already made billions of dollars from the supply of weapons to Ukraine. Neither the Assembly nor any other mechanism can annul sovereignty immunity, which States assets have under international law, he emphasized. Those delegations which support the draft resolution will be implicated in the illegal expropriation of sovereignty assets. He went on to say that most developing countries probably think it is ludicrous or insulting for Western countries to demand reparations, as the draft resolution is being put forward by States with a rich record of looting the rest of the world through colonialism, slavery and the exploitation of natural resources. The countries of the West never considered reparations as a way of atoning for their own sins, he said, adding that if adopted, the draft resolution will have systemic consequences for the Organization.
OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, recalled how, on 2 March, the General Assembly with an overwhelming majority confirmed that the Russian Federation committed an aggression against Ukraine in violation of Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. “Damage inflicted on Ukraine is huge,” he said. Under international law, the responsible State is under an obligation to make full reparation for the injury caused by its wrongful act. The draft resolution recommends the creation by Member States and Ukraine of a register of damage. That register will serve as a repository of evidence of all types of damage.
The resolution also recognizes the need for the establishment of an international claims mechanism for reparation for damage as a second step, he continued. Rather than charging the domestic legal system of Ukraine and other States with a potentially very high number of individual litigations, a centralized and specialized system would be more appropriate. “Russia must be held to account for its wrongful acts and wanton destruction,” he stressed. Every country enjoys the right to document crimes committed against its population, territory or cultural property in order to secure a proper investigation.
SOPHIA TESFAMARIAM (Eritrea), speaking on behalf of a Group of Like-Minded Countries, stressed that the Assembly is not a judicial body. Its resolutions represent the political will of States and can in no way serve as the legal basis for defining internationally wrongful acts as such an action would go beyond its mandate and responsibilities, she said. As such, the draft resolution does not have sufficient legal basis, is not in line with the established practice and would only promote a divisive agenda within the Assembly. The text’s adoption, she warned, would set a dangerous precedent that would allow for the Assembly’s “blessing” to establish a remedy and reparation mechanism that is neither managed nor accountable to the organ responsible for creating it. States suffering from foreign interference, colonialism, slavery, oppression, unilateral coercive measures, illegal blockades and other internationally wrongful acts also deserve the right for remedy, reparation and justice, she noted.
As national positions must be respected, the Assembly must play a positive role in ensuring the conflict in Ukraine is resolved through diplomatic efforts and means while avoiding any initiative that might further aggravate the situation on the ground and escalate tensions, she emphasized. Sovereign States must not be forced to take specific sides in the conflict. Any attempt to entrench a cold war‑era mentality and block politics based on confrontation, deepening divisions and the imposition of disparate visions and agendas must be rejected by all, she urged.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), speaking on behalf of the eight Nordic‑Baltic countries, recalled that the Russian Federation’s brutal invasion has created Europe’s largest humanitarian tragedy since World War II. More than 17 million people have been displaced, while three million must get by without water, electricity, sanitation and heating. Russian armed forces have deliberately attacked critical infrastructure, including energy grids, power interconnectors and water stations. Collecting and preserving evidence is important because the Russian Federation must be held accountable for its internationally wrongful acts against Ukraine and its people, he emphasized.
He quoted the President of Ukraine as having told journalists a few hours earlier that investigators had uncovered more than 400 war crimes in the Kherson area after it was abandoned by Russian forces. There must be no impunity for these crimes and perpetrators must be held to account. Reiterating the Nordic‑Baltic countries’ firm support for Ukraine, he urged the Russian Federation to abide by international law and uphold its international commitments. He also called for the Secretary‑General and the United Nations to continue efforts to restore respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.
KRZYSZTOF SZCZERSKI (Poland) underscored the need for an unambiguous and comprehensive response from the international community. As accountability must remain the priority as the war continues, the Russian Federation must be held responsible for the consequences of all its violations, including reparations for the injury and damage caused by its glaring and large‑scale violation of its international obligations, he stressed. Poland supports the creation of an international register of damage, he said while calling for all damages to be always and appropriately compensated. “It is not enough if the perpetrators only admit their wrongdoings. It is not enough if they express remorse. Moral gestures are welcome but never enough. It is material compensation which is needed to rebuild damages caused by wars”, he stressed. The proposed register, he continued, will not only assist Ukraine in rebuilding itself but will also bring justice to the victims of the Russian Federation’s barbaric acts.
MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka), noting that the most urgent step is to engage in talks for a ceasefire, stressed that an attempt to provide justification through a General Assembly resolution to seizure sovereign assets of one party would amount to an overreach of the application of the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. Further pointing out that the Assembly is a political body for deliberation, he underscored that it cannot determine State responsibility or usurp the sovereign immunity of State property under international law. Highlighting that the register initiative creates a dangerous precedent, he emphasized that it may result in compelling the parties to resort to a more lethal and sophisticated method of engaging in the conflict.
ABDULAZIZ M. ALWASIL (Saudi Arabia), speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said the Council is very concerned with the crisis in Ukraine and its humanitarian, economic and political consequences. The Council aligns itself with the fundamental principles of respect for international law and the United Nations Charter that govern relations between countries, he said, urging all parties to respect their obligations under international law. The best course is to reach a settlement by diplomatic means that serves the interests of all parties. The draft resolution is based on the main principles and guidelines of redress adopted by the Assembly in its resolution 147/60 in 2005, he noted, adding that any mechanism must be based on procedures and standards that are internally accepted and under the auspices of the United Nations, to provide redress and reparations in a fair manner. He expressed the Council’s hope of finding a satisfactory solution and supported all humanitarian initiatives that achieve this purpose and bring peace to the region.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) spotlighted the continued damage and loss to Ukraine and its people caused by the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and illegal invasion. The scenes of relief and joy as Ukrainian civilians in Kherson greet Ukraine’s liberating armed forces, she noted, should leave the international community with no doubt about the cruel and destructive nature of the Russian Federation’s invasion. It will take a broad international effort to support Ukraine’s recovery and construction in order to build a safe and prosperous future for its people, she continued. Only one country is responsible for the damage to Ukraine, must pay for that damage and must be held to account for actions that are in clear violation of international law, she said before expressing her support for establishing a register of damage as an important first step towards justice.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) recalled that indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations constitute a war crime and that responsibility for these actions must be held. “Unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force must not occur in any corner of the globe,” he said, adding that the draft resolution, if adopted, should contribute to reparations for the serious violations of the principles of the United Nations Charter. The Russian Federation must immediately stop its war of aggression, withdraw all its troops and military equipment from Ukraine, and respect Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, he added.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) said that it is the General Assembly’s responsibility “to do all we can” to avoid the deadly consequences of war. “We see accountability and reparation processes as an important element in avoiding and forestalling further perpetuation of grave atrocities,” she added. New Zealand is strongly committed to supporting international mechanisms that seek accountability for the Russian Federation’s clear breaches of international law. In addition to mechanisms that seek accountability, New Zealand believes that future reparation processes can play a critical role in the rebuilding of communities, he said. Those that are responsible for causing damage and injury by breaching international law must make full reparations for rebuilding and compensating Ukraine. “The principles at stake in Ukraine are deeply significant to New Zealand as a small State acting in the world,” she said, urging the Russian Federation to commit to dialogue and act in the interests of peace.
DANG HOANG GIANG (Viet Nam) expressed concern over recent developments in the situation in Ukraine, with few prospects for an early resolution. “We cannot let cooperation and dialogue take the back seat,” he emphasized. While noting the importance of resolving the “war legacies” for reconstruction, maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity for the livelihoods of the people of Ukraine, he stressed that the immediate task is to respond adequately to the urgent humanitarian needs of those impacted by hostilities in the country. He further pointed out that the international community should refrain from actions that may drive the parties further apart and delay the prospects of a peaceful settlement.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia), emphasizing that “we will not be fooled by Russia’s misinformation and obfuscation,” said the draft resolution does not overstep the Assembly’s powers in any way. Rather, it simply recognizes fundamental principles of international law by which all States, including the Russian Federation, must abide. A register of damage and a reparations mechanism, appropriately constructed, will be an important component of a fair, impartial and just framework for determining the reparations that the Russian Federation must make to ensure lasting peace. He urged all Member States to continue to support this and all other efforts to ensure that the Russian Federation ends its war of aggression against Ukraine and to make reparations for the injury and damage it has caused.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) spotlighted the Russian Federation’s footprint of destruction. While the United Nations and other organizations have reported continuously on the significant and widespread damages caused by the Russian Federation’s aggression, there is a need to have a detailed map of what has happened to have a full picture of this man-made catastrophe, he emphasized. In expressing his support for the resolution, he called on all Member States to vote in favour as an act of justice and dignity. It is very straightforward, he explained: aggression has happened; extensive damage has been inflicted; and it must be documented for the purposes of reparation and accountability. The Russian Federation must silence the guns, withdraw completely and unconditionally from Ukraine and engage in negotiations. “Ukraine is home to Ukrainians. It does not have to become the graveyard of Russian soldiers,” he said.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada) said the resolution is not about seizing assets or dealing with State sovereignty; rather, it is about saying there must be a registry for there to be an eventual reckoning for the damage and destruction that has been caused. When one country attacks another country, it is a breach of the law, and it is against the rules. The Russian Federation has prevented the Security Council from functioning and has tried to tie up the General Assembly and the Council in knots because it cannot bring itself to admit that its Special Military Operation is not that at all but rather a systematic attack on Ukraine. The Russian Federation is attempting to freeze and starve the people of Ukraine. “Of course, we need to find peace,” he said, but the one and only country that can secure peace refuses to accept responsibility for its own aggression. The Assembly is not being asked to perform the function of judge or jury or to go too far, it is simply saying there should be a registry and Ukraine and other countries should be allowed to support that registry.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, and recalling the Assembly’s demand for the Russian Federation to cease its aggression against Ukraine and to withdraw from its internationally recognized borders, said today is an opportunity to address Moscow’s second obligation under customary international law. He asked delegates to imagine that their countries’ neighbour had launched a brutal and illegitimate military aggression that resulted in enormous damage against them. Would they not want the international community to hold the aggressor to account with an obligation to pay reparations, he wondered. “I believe the answer is clear,” he said, urging delegates to vote in favour of the draft resolution.
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), associating himself with the statement delivered by the European Union delegation, said that, despite strong condemnations, the Russian Federation’s violent actions continue to cause suffering and destruction in Ukraine. “The picture that is emerging after Russia’s recent withdrawal from Kherson is once again one of destruction and pain inflicted on the local population,” he said. The draft resolution does not establish any standing United Nations reparation or compensation mechanism. It is instead aimed at providing global legitimacy by recommending to Member States the creation of an international register of damage. Such register will coordinate and organize evidence‑gathering efforts, including those carried out in the context of various investigations by United Nations bodies. “Ukraine needs reparations to have the possibility of rebuilding itself after the war ‑ housing for its people, schools, hospitals, roads, railways and bridges, as well as its industry and power grid ‑ all that was destroyed by Russia during its invasion and occupation,” he added.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, said that the Russian Federation faces legal consequences arising from its continued breaches of international law. Explaining that the draft resolution recognizes and affirms Moscow’s clear obligation to cease its wrongful acts and to make reparations, he said that an international register of damage would not only preserve evidence of damage, loss and injury but also shed light on atrocities committed against the Ukrainian people. It would be an important first step towards accountability, he said, adding that reparations will alleviate some of the long‑term consequences of this horrific war.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria), aligning himself with the Group of Like‑Minded Countries, pointed out that “Western countries” are promoting political polarization within the United Nations to deepen the divide among its Member States. He stressed that the organ should avoid any initiative which exacerbates the conflict and prevents its peaceful resolution. Noting that the draft resolution is part of a series of “unbalanced bias and provocative resolutions” pushed by the United States and its Western partners, he stated that its real objective is to pay for the increasing purchases of weapons by Ukraine. In this regard he asked the Assembly: “Who will compensate my country for the destruction of the Syrian infrastructure by the so‑called international coalition?”
JASSER JIMÉNEZ (Nicaragua), echoing the statement of the Group of Like-Minded Countries, said the resolution is an example of the hypocrisy and double standards of certain countries. Nicaragua supports a robust multilateralism and a new international order with a deep transformation between countries, he said, calling for an end to double standards and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. This resolution shamelessly seeks to politicize the Organization by setting up an international mechanism that is not administered by the body that established it, he said. This is a mechanism for a single case and ignores the painful history that imperialist countries have left behind. It does not recognize the genocide against the original peoples of countries. He supported his brethren in the Caribbean and Africa that are seeking reparations for these losses. Sanctions are direct aggressions against people, and during the pandemic, they have become crimes against humanity, he said, calling for reparations for damage caused by Western countries. He said that in 1986 the International Court of Justice condemned the United States for hostilities against Nicaragua and ordered $17 billion in compensation. It is a decision that the United States has not complied with. Developing countries have been demanding a reparation mechanism for the damage created by climate change. The resolution is a divisive act in the Assembly and does not promote dialogue. It sets a dangerous precedent as it is not administered by the Assembly and his delegation will vote against it.
CORNEL FERUȚĂ (Romania), aligning himself with the European Union, said the resolution is an additional step towards accountability for the Russian Federation’s blatant violations of international law. Its provisions, he noted, complement existing international efforts concerning individual criminal responsibility by adding the missing dimension of the State’s responsibility for its internationally wrongful acts. Ukraine’s case for reparations, he continued, is a moral and legal imperative which constitutes an important deterrent to the benefit of the entire community. If the aggressor is left unsanctioned, this could lead to an irreversible decay of the international order which generations have strived to build in the aftermath of the world wars, he warned. As its provisions do not establish any new entities, the resolution undertakes a modest and principled step by recognizing the need for an international mechanism for reparation and recommending the creation of an international register of damage, he emphasized.
SONG KIM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) stressed that the draft resolution is “nothing more than a politically motivated document” to shift all responsibilities of the crisis in Ukraine to the Russian Federation. Pointing out that the text is inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, he further noted that the Assembly is not a judicial organ and has no mandate to judge the internationally wrongful acts and to provide the legal ground for remedy and reparations. Voicing concern over the possibility of abusing this draft resolution as a basis to illegally seize property and assets of a sovereign State, he opposed the text as a “product of a unilateral and double standard practice.”
GENG SHUANG (China) said that the draft resolution contains obvious flaws and loopholes. Elaborating, he said that the Assembly is not an international judicial body, and therefore it cannot define or hold accountable international wrongful acts. Moreover, the draft resolution aims to invoke articles on the responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts, but these articles are only the research products of the International Law Commission, an expert body, and they are not legally binding. In addition, creating a register of damage outside the framework of the United Nations is a diversion from past practice that makes no sense and has no precedent. Such draft resolutions should be subjected to full consultations with a view to achieving a consensus that can stand the test of history. Regrettably, the co-sponsors of this text did not organize consultations in earnest, pushing instead for the Assembly to take unconstructive, hasty action. Declaring that China will vote against the draft resolution, he called on the parties to the crisis to return to dialogue and negotiation, with the Assembly working actively towards that end instead of aggravating divisions.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), associating herself with the European Union, reiterated her country’s commitment to Ukraine and its people in ensuring justice for all victims of the Russian Federation’s illegal war. Victims must be respected in terms of their dignity and rights, she emphasized while spotlighting her country’s support for Ukraine legal actions and to the international efforts of the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court. As the Russian Federation must be held responsible for its crimes, its flagrant violations of international law and the legal consequences of its wrongful actions, she called on the Assembly to support the draft resolution.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa) said that the impact of the war in Ukraine is being felt all over the world. South Africa reiterates that the territorial integrity of all States, including that of Ukraine, must be respected and rejects all actions that undermine principles laid out in the United Nations Charter. The Security Council should play a constructive role in resolving this conflict, she added, expressing regret that the Council continues to fail the people of Ukraine. The General Assembly, for its part, should create conditions conducive to dialogue, mediation and diplomacy. That, after all, is the only path to peace. The United Nations should do more to devote equal time to the resolution of all conflict situations that threaten international peace and security. She expressed concern that the General Assembly was “sending a message of exceptionalism” and that reparations matter in some situations but not others. Member States must refrain from double standards. The draft resolution places the United Nations in uncharted waters. The General Assembly is being asked to grant its authority to the setting up of a reparations mechanism, but there is no clarity on what the mechanism will look like or what its eventual legal status will be. “We are uncomfortable” with the draft text, she said, noting that South Africa will abstain from today’s vote.
YOKA BRANDT (Netherlands), aligning herself with the European Union, stressed that the evidence of damages caused by the Russian Federation might disappear or get lost under the fog of war, therefore pointing to the need for a registry as outlined in the draft resolution. The text establishes that the aggressor is liable for the damages, she added, which must be documented in a register to allow for compensations. Recalling that the Assembly has established a register for damages in the past, she underscored that it is within its competence to recommend establishing one for this case. She called on Member States to “vote for justice for all those who have suffered damages in the unprovoked conflict”.
VALENTIN RYBAKOV (Belarus), aligning himself with the Group of Like-Minded Countries, said the draft resolution introduced today once again shows that Western States have given up on principles of multilateralism and cooperation with the United Nations. Through the Minsk agreements, his delegation did all it could to organize negotiations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Yet the Western States, the guarantors, did not really want to have the situation resolved, he said. Instead, they endorsed the fomenting escalation in the Donbas region in 2014, supported Ukraine and pumped weapons into it, creating the pre-conditions for today’s situation, in which both countries have become an existential threat to each other. The draft does not stand up to the cross-scrutiny of international law. It does not mention the crimes of imperialists and the consequences of slavery, he said, pointing out that no one has paid reparations for these types of damages, which are not even possible to assess. The draft does not mention the economic terrorism of sanctions that suffocate whole peoples. The war in Ukraine is one of 30 armed conflicts in the world. The Assembly should not make an exemption for one country, he stressed. The text will not bring the situation one step closer to peace; it will just polarize the Assembly. As such, his delegation will vote against it, he said.
PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba), calling on all parties to protect civilians, their property and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, rejected the double standards, partiality, discriminatory selectivity and opportunistic approaches before the Assembly. Spotlighting the hypocrisy of its main promoters, he urged States to listen and address the compensation claims of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), developing countries and small island developing States among others. The Assembly, he noted, has never established a reparations mechanism for Member States suffering from unilateral coercive measures. Will Cuba be compensated for the damage accumulated over six decades of an economic, commercial and financial blockade; the lives lost; and the illegal occupation of its national territory, he asked before turning his attention to Mexico, Viet Nam, the Pacific Islands, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and the State of Palestine. To limit and accelerate the creation of a reparation mechanism for one specific conflict while ignoring many other historical, legitimate and well‑documented demands is unjust and morally unacceptable, he said. It also severely damages the Assembly’s credibility, he added.
AMIR SAEID JALIL IRAVANI (Iran), aligning himself with the Group of Like-Minded Countries, noted that the draft resolution contains language outside of the Assembly’s purview. If agreed upon, the proposed mechanism would have no actual contribution to the peaceful resolution of the conflict and would only serve as a political tool, he cautioned. The main sponsors of the draft resolution, he explained, apply different criteria in other conflicts in a blatant double standard. If an international mechanism is to be established, then it must have a broad mandate that could address any international wrongdoing, including military aggressions, looting, blockades, unilateral sanctions, occupation and the provision of weapons of mass destruction, he contended. Objecting to any mechanism which undermines international law, he pointed out that any acts or decisions of the mechanism in operative paragraphs 3 or 4 would have no legal status and thus be null and void.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said that it is clear what the issue is before the Assembly, namely that the international community must hold the Russian Federation to account for its violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and for the ensuing damage and abuses. “This resolution represents a critical step towards accountability,” he said, describing as tremendous the mounting cost of the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unlawful invasion of its neighbour and fellow United Nations member. Pointing to Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter, he said that it is well within the Assembly’s authority to adopt the draft resolution and create a damages register that will be an important first step towards a claims adjudication mechanism. This is a matter of justice, not geopolitical competition, and by adopting the text, the Assembly will send a strong message to would-be aggressors worldwide that violations of international law, including the Charter, will have consequences. A vote in favour of the draft resolution is a vote for accountability and for the defence of the Charter, he said, emphasizing that Member States cannot sit on the sidelines when fundamental principles of international law are at stake.
SILVA LEANDER, representative of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, in its capacity as observer, pointed out that Ukraine will require assistance for further strengthening its democratic institutions, which will be essential for successfully countering corruption and achieving its reconstruction. Noting that the Russian Federation has targeted not only strategic military infrastructure but also civilian targets, public services, supply networks and sectors, she stressed the need to include political and civil society institutions and actors at the local level in Ukraine as “critical infrastructure”. Emphasizing that the coming process of reconstitution and recovery needs to place democracy at its centre, she deemed it vital to allocate resources to support the reconstruction and improvement of the country’s democratic institutions.
The representative of Bahamas, speaking on behalf of CARICOM in explanation of vote before the vote, said CARICOM subscribes to the principle that for every wrong, there is a remedy. This is a fundamental principle of law and equity and an equally fundamental principle of international law. Ukraine has experienced injury and the burden of compensation should be imposed on the perpetrator. CARICOM recognizes that the United Nations is vital to resolving international matters. While supporting Ukraine’s legitimate claims for reparations, he said such a process must be pursued through an appropriate mechanism. The proposal in the resolution contemplates that the Assembly should endorse a process over which it would have no control, oversight or any role. As drafted, the resolution asks Member States to give approval and then trust the process will be continued fairly and objectively.
Referring to language in operative paragraphs 3 and 4 of the resolution, he said CARICOM will abstain from a vote. Yet the Russian Federation must bear the legal consequences of all its wrongful acts for any violations of international law and/or for any violations of international humanitarian law in or against Ukraine. He reiterated his strong support for the principle that Member States have a legitimate right to claim reparations and compensation for injury, loss and damage caused by the wrongful actions of other Member States. This principle is to be applied in the present case as well as other similar cases worldwide. CARICOM has made this broader point regarding several issues before the international community, including climate action and reparations in connection with the transatlantic slave trade and native genocide. “There will always exist a moral and/or legal obligation to correct injustice including the legacy of past injustice,” he said.
The representative of Mexico, reiterating his country’s defence of Ukraine’s sovereignty, national unity, independence and territorial integrity, noted the ongoing judicial processes which could lead to the establishment of reparation mechanisms. The reparations stage is still far away, he pointed out, since the conflict is ongoing and in a state of flux. Nevertheless, he said he will vote in favour of the resolution since the resolution limits itself to recommending the creation of a register of damages.
JOAQUÍN PÉREZ (Venezuela), aligning himself with the Group of Like-Minded Countries, rejected attempts to impose a draft resolution that does not receive any consultations or take into account the views of all States involved. Such a methodology will not bring the international community closer to its goal of achieving peace. Rather, it will bring the Assembly closer to a point of no return. The draft resolution represents double standards and is not a peaceful solution. It attempts to use the Assembly to confiscate the properties and assets of other States and advances dubious aims. He said his country knows first-hand the looting of its sovereign resources. The text does not include measures for accountability, and there are no details on how it would be implemented. It does not follow a rules-based order. The proponents of the draft are shamelessly ignoring the crimes committed by colonial powers. The same members taking the lead on the resolution ignore the developing world’s demand for reparations. “It is moral amnesia,” he said. He appealed to other delegations to vote against the text, which would create a serious precedent for the Assembly.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 94 in favour to 14 against, with 73 abstentions.
The representative of Egypt, in explanation of vote after the vote, noted that he abstained from the vote since the proposal sets a dangerous precedent in asking for the development of a mechanism outside the institutional framework of the United Nations without clarifying the mechanism’s rules, working methods or subsequent measures. The role of the Organization and the Assembly has unprecedentedly not been specified, he added. He then turned his attention to the divergent views on the International Law Commission’s draft articles. This topic should not have been considered before the achievement of consensus in the Sixth Committee(Legal), he emphasized. In noting the double standard approach of certain States, he expressed his preference for the Assembly to abstain. The Assembly, he cautioned, must undertake a coherent approach going forward on its practices, ability and willingness to create similar reparation mechanisms for other countries.
The representative of Brazil said he abstained since the resolution does not foster constructive dialogue nor recognize the central role of the United Nations in the process. The text brings a high level of uncertainty regarding the legal parameters of such a register to be created outside the framework of the United Nations and without its supervision, he noted. In recommending the creation of such a mechanism without a specified scope, the Assembly is encouraging the fragmentation of its collective responsibility in promoting peace. It undermines the United Nations and ignores the efforts of the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court, he emphasized before voicing his regret over the insufficient time for discussion. The emergency special session must be capable of acting in a more transparent and democratic fashion, he urged while referencing the deadlock in the Security Council.
The representative of Chile said her country’s vote in favour of the resolution is representative of its respect for human rights. She also expressed concern that some delegations in the Sixth Committee (Legal) have been unwilling to negotiate a convention on a binding framework to provide legal certainty regarding the international responsibility of States. Chile calls on those delegations to modify their position. Chile also recognizes that Assembly resolutions have a non-binding character. Further, she said she hopes a reparations fund will be established for relatives of victims of femicide and other violent deaths of women. Chile calls on all parties to continue negotiations and find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The representative of Indonesia called the resolution “divisive”, while also recognizing the efforts of the facilitators to provide room for some consultation. The underlying message of the resolution should have been that war must stop and that sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected. On the recommendation to establish a registry of damage and a reparations mechanism, he highlighted that such mechanisms must be built upon a foundation of due process. “The General Assembly resolution at this stage may lead us to a slippery slope,” he warned. For these reasons, Indonesia abstained from the resolution.
The representative of India, emphasizing the conflict’s impact on the Global South, said delegations need to consider whether a reparation process, initiated through the Assembly, will contribute to resolving the conflict. Such a mechanism must not be established without adequate legal vetting, she said, adding that Member States must avoid steps that might preclude or endanger the possibility of dialogue and negotiations which could bring the conflict to an end. For that reason, India decided to abstain, she said.
The representative of Singapore said his delegation supported the resolution on the understanding that it is without prejudice to, nor does it seek to undermine or prejudge, the outcomes of ongoing judicial and investigative processes related to the war in Ukraine. Moreover, in Singapore’s view, the approach contained in the resolution is not automatically applicable to other conflicts, as every situation should be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law into account, he added.
The representative of Pakistan, noting that while his country supports the establishment of a claims commission, stressed that any such mechanism must be based on sound legal foundations. Double standards in the application of international law are counterproductive, he emphasized, underscoring that it would be unprecedented to establish a remedy and reparation mechanism that is neither managed by nor accountable to any of the United Nations principal organs, including the Assembly. Irrespective of the origin of the conflict, he added, the highest priority at this moment is immediate cessation of hostilities and dialogue for peace.
The representative of Kenya stated that, while Ukraine has a sovereign right to make claims for damages and losses caused by the current conflict, so do all peoples and countries that have sought reparations for colonial violence, slavery and other acts of aggression. Noting that this text will pave the way for more concrete discussions, decisions and resolutions on reparation, he emphasized that all Member States should be ready to hear other countries’ calls for accountability for historical injustices.
The representative of Brunei Darussalam condemned violations of the sovereignty or territorial integrity of any country and firmly upheld the principles for the respect of international law. Regarding the establishment of a register of damage, she said similar mechanisms have been established under the ambit of the United Nations. Any such independent mechanism should be established according to due process and consultations. She reiterated the importance of diplomacy and called on all parties directly involved to de‑escalate and resolve the situation by peaceful means, stressing the need to refrain from force and maintain international peace and stability.
The representative of Argentina said her delegation’s clear and consistent position has been to defend territorial integrity as a fundamental principle of international law. Any damages must be subject to reparations under international law. She supported the draft resolution as it would achieve accountability for wrongful acts that violate the Charter. She stressed the importance of indicating the damages for such wrongful acts and discussing appropriate means for accountability, bearing in mind that accountability for unlawful acts must apply to all acts that need reparations, without prejudice. For this reason, her delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution.
The representative of Qatar, in calling on parties to show restraint and stop the war, said he voted in favour of the resolution since it is in line with his country’s position on the protection of civilians and the provision of reparations for material and psychological damages. Reparations and the mechanisms to implement them, however, must be conducted in accordance with the principles of international law and established international precedents, he stressed.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, associating himself with the Gulf Cooperation Council, said he abstained due to the text’s unclear and imprecise nature. The resolution offers the Assembly’s support for reparations and evidentiary processes that have yet to be defined by a group of Member States still to be determined, he pointed out while expressing his concern over the resolution’s implications for sovereign equality and sovereign immunity.
The representative of Nigeria called on all parties to the conflict to end hostilities and begin negotiations. Nigeria is committed to the principles of the United Nations and calls on all countries to refrain from actions that will worsen the conflict. Current efforts should focus on resuming peace. Nigeria is open to working with all countries on these goals, he said, adding that for such reasons Nigeria abstained from the vote.
The representative of Sierra Leone reiterated grave concern about the conflict in Ukraine, which has had widespread repercussions all over the world. Sierra Leone is committed to the United Nations Charter and its principles, including sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence, he said. Noting that his delegation’s prior votes on the issue of Ukraine have been based on the Charter principles, he said today Sierra Leone abstained from the resolution and was guided by its belief in the Charter and the consistent application of international law. The General Assembly is not an adjudicative body and cannot set out legal consequences; it must recognize all victims of historical injustices, including racism, colonialism and slavery. “Reparations concern both the past and the present,” he added.
The representative of Bahrain, renewing support for all efforts to use diplomatic means to de-escalate tensions and conflicts, reiterated that any mechanisms for settling disputes should follow the rules of the United Nations and the multilateral system. Hopefully, work will continue towards a peaceful settlement that meets the needs of all parties and avoids further repercussions, he added.