General Assembly Adopts Resolutions Deciding Format, Focus of Upcoming High-level Meetings in September on Pandemic Prevention and Response, Fighting Tuberculosis
Text on Central Asia Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy Also Approved
The General Assembly adopted three consensus resolutions today, one under peacebuilding and sustaining peace and two under global health and foreign policy. The latter — which included a resolution on the high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response — notably saw the inclusion of a draft amendment, the rejection of a separate one and a recorded vote on a preambular paragraph.
By that amended resolution titled “Scope, modalities, format and organization of the high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response”, the Assembly decided that the one-day high-level meeting convened by its President in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) shall be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 20 September during the general debate of the Assembly’s seventy-eighth session and shall consist of an opening segment, a plenary segment for general discussion, two multi-stakeholder panels and a brief closing segment. In light of the multifaceted consequences of pandemics, it also decided that the goal of this meeting is to further mobilize political momentum, including through the integration of a multisectoral approach towards that topic.
Immediately before this, the Assembly adopted the draft amendment put forth by the United States, which added language on States’ obligations under international human rights law to a preambular paragraph, thereby strengthening the implementation of robust global, regional, national and local responses. Promoting and protecting the human rights of all persons is critical to an effective pandemic preparedness architecture, its representative stated.
Through two recorded votes, it also handed a defeat to Sweden on its draft amendment and its subsequent request — both of which would have notably resulted in the deletion of preambular paragraph 11 from the resolution. In her introduction on behalf of the European Union, she explained that this problematic preambular paragraph contained language that has not been adopted by consensus, lacks clarity and is currently being discussed by Member States in Geneva. “We broke silence to stress that we cannot support the inclusion of the paragraph,” she emphasized as she reiterated the bloc’s commitment to closing significant and unacceptable gaps in the access, distribution and development of vaccines and therapeutics globally.
Several speakers took the floor in explanation of vote before vote to emphasize the text’s balanced and constructive nature as they registered their disapproval.
“Perplexed” by this “baffling proposal”, Malaysia’s representative pointed out that this is just “another example of stonewalling the priorities of the developing world”.
Sweden’s amendment represents everything that is wrong with the current international order, Cuba’s delegate declared, as the representative of South Africa added that it seeks to delete consensus language and undermine collective humanity in favour of individualism.
In other action, the Assembly also adopted a text, titled “Scope, modalities, format and organization of the high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis”, by which it decided that the one-day high-level meeting convened by its President shall be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 22 September during the general debate of the Assembly’s seventy-eighth session and shall consist of an opening segment, a plenary segment for general discussion, two multi-stakeholder panels and a brief closing segment. It also decided the overall theme of this meeting will be “Advancing science, finance and innovation, and their benefits, to urgently end the global tuberculosis epidemic, in particular by ensuring equitable access to prevention, testing, treatment and care”.
At the outset, the Assembly adopted the text introduced by Turkmenistan titled “Role of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia”. By its terms, the Assembly encouraged that Centre to play a proactive role and continue liaising with the Governments of the region and other concerned parties; maintain contact with relevant regional organizations and facilitate coordination and information exchange; and continue its close cooperation with Governments on strengthening the region’s capacity to overcome challenges to peace and stability through preventive diplomacy and dialogue. It also welcomed the Regional Centre’s assistance in implementing the initiatives of Central Asian countries towards a stable, peaceful and prosperous region.
The Assembly additionally resumed its consideration of the resolution on “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)” (document A/77/L.49/Rev.1) — which it had adopted on 20 February 2023 — with the representatives of Sri Lanka, Brazil, Cuba, Indonesia and Colombia speaking in explanation of vote after the vote.
Also delivering explanations of vote today were representatives of India, Venezuela, Brazil (speaking also for Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay), Mexico, China, Japan, Canada, Switzerland and the Russian Federation.
The General Assembly will resume at a time and date to be announced.
Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace
AKSOLTAN ATAEVA (Turkmenistan), introducing the draft resolution titled “Role of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia” (document A/77/L.53), underscored the vital role of that Centre in promoting dialogue between national Governments to find solutions for emerging problems and eliminate potential threats; facilitating regular contact with regional and international organizations on peacemaking initiatives; and in cooperation with other United Nations Agencies on conflict prevention. In its 15 years of operation, it has notably provided Governments with a platform for dialogue on the most challenging regional issues ranging from the management of common resources; transnational threats such as terrorism and violent extremism; organized crime; drug trafficking; and the situation in Afghanistan. “L.53”, she noted, underlines the new and valuable experience of the Centre in utilizing its knowledge towards prevention, early warning and mediation activities. It also includes new paragraphs on recent developments in the Central Asia region and welcomes the Centre’s initiatives aimed at empowering women and youth in preventive diplomacy. Voicing her hope that the text will be adopted by consensus, she called on all Member States that have not yet done so do join as a co-sponsor.
The General Assembly then adopted “L.53” without a vote.
Cooperation between United Nations and Regional and Other Organizations
The Assembly then resumed its consideration of the resolution on “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)” (document A/77/L.49/Rev.1), which it had adopted on 20 February 2023 (For background, see GA/12490).
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Sri Lanka said that nature appears to be crying out loud and sending clear warnings but humans are willfully refusing to hear and see these warnings. Expressing commitment to the vision of a world free of chemical weapons in which chemistry is used for peace and progress, he condemned the use of such weapons under any circumstances by any party. His delegation voted in favor of the resolution, he said, adding that it abstained on the paragraph that seeks to lose sight of the focus of the resolution.
The representative of Brazil pointed to the dangerous trend of multiple competing drafts on the same agenda item, adding that this undermines the working processes of the Organization and makes consensus even harder to reach. Stressing that the Assembly’s work must continue to be premised on a search for consensus, he said that his delegation decided to abstain on operative paragraphs 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 because the scope of the United Nations cooperation with the OPCW in Syria and regarding the Syrian chemical weapons file is sufficiently covered by operative paragraph 11.
The representative of Cuba, noting that his country is a party to the Convention, expressed support for the cooperation between the United Nations and OPCW. Stressing that he was unable to support the draft resolution adopted and vote in favour of the divisive text, he said that controversial issues should be discussed within OPCW and not extrapolated in the resolution. He underscored that any draft resolution should be focused on the promotion of cooperation and address issues that unite Member States and not divide them.
The representative of Indonesia said that she voted in favour of the draft resolution to reaffirm her support for cooperation between the United Nations and OPCW. She said that the resolution should focus on the issue itself and avoid elements outside of the scope of cooperation with the United Nations. Against this backdrop, her delegation abstained on operative paragraphs 6 to 12. While expressing appreciation for informal meetings, she said that efforts to reconcile the two texts were minimal.
The representative of Colombia, expressing her country’s firm commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention, supported OPCW’s work and cooperation with the United Nations. The principles of disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are part of Colombia’s foreign policy and enshrined in its Constitution, and Bogotá is in favour of the total elimination of all such weapons. Urging the international community to continue with relevant mechanisms already in existence — as they are designed to promote transparency, dialogue and decision-making — she said that her delegation’s vote reflects its principled position on this issue.
Global Health and Foreign Policy
SOFIJA KORAC (United States), introducing the draft amendment (document A/77/L.55) to the draft resolution titled “Scope, modalities, format and organization of the high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response” (document A/77/L.54), expressed support for the high-level meeting, noting that while appreciating the process, her delegation was disappointed to have to co-sponsor an amendment to preambular paragraphs 11 and 14. Both paragraphs ended up with problematic language due to last-minute additions and discussions by a small number of delegations. While appreciating the co-facilitators navigating these difficulties, she affirmed that both amendments bring forth a consensual text that will set the tone for the political declaration negotiations. The United States amendment to preambular paragraph 14 strengthens its impact to fully implement robust global, regional, national and local responses, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, as well as the key leadership role of the World Health Organization within the broader United Nations response. Promoting and protecting human rights of all persons is critical to an effective pandemic preparedness architecture, she stated, calling on all delegations to support the amendment.
KARIN BERLIN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, introduced a draft amendment (document A/77/L.56) to “L.54” which would call for the deletion of preambular paragraph 11 from that text. That paragraph, she noted, recalls a paragraph of decision SSA2(5) of the World Health Assembly’s Second Special Session and introduces the term “unhindered access” to the Assembly. While unhindered humanitarian access is a familiar concept, “unhindered access” has not been discussed at any length, is not framed or defined and has not been adopted by consensus. Furthermore, the lack of clarity around this term has led to its misuse. As such, the European Union cannot support preambular paragraph 11 since its inclusion could be used to prejudge and disrupt the discussions and processes currently under way among Member States in Geneva. She also noted that preambular paragraph 11 is of no consequence for the scope or modalities of the high-level meeting and would set an unhelpful precedent for the negotiation of other modalities and resolutions.
The European Union is fully engaged and contributes tirelessly towards the improved and more equitable access, distribution and development of vaccines and therapeutics globally, she reaffirmed, emphasizing that its aim is to close significant and unacceptable gaps. The bloc has notably been forthcoming, transparent and consistent in its position in these negotiations in that it has repeatedly asked to delete this reference; provided detailed explanations; offered alternative solutions; and suggested, among other things, a definition of the term. “We broke silence to stress that we cannot support the inclusion of the paragraph,” she emphasized as she urged Member States to agree with the request for deletion.
Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Cuba, highlighted the need to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations to confront present and future diseases. Amendment “L.56” represents everything that is wrong with the current international order, he said, adding that it seeks to eliminate the reference to timely, equitable and unhindered access to the resources, knowledge and technology required. Noting that these phrases represent consensus-based language that was reached in Geneva, he added that it is also regrettable how amendment “L.55” was presented without much transparency.
The representative of India, noting the challenges of post-pandemic recovery, highlighted the overcentralized nature of globalization and unreliability of supply chains. Without equity, the international community can expect more reruns of the pandemic, he said, expressing concern about the attempt to delete preambular paragraph 11 from this important text. He also expressed regret about the introduction of new language in preambular paragraph 14 without following the negotiating process.
The representative of Venezuela said that all the preambular paragraphs of the draft resolution are timely, including preambular paragraph 11 related to addressing the loopholes in prevention, preparedness and response in health emergencies. Against this backdrop, he opposed any draft amendments to remove from the debate this important element.
The representative of Brazil, also speaking for Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, expressed regret over the proposal to delete preambular paragraph 11, noting that it was consensual and enjoyed the support of developing countries across regions. He went on to say that this paragraph is a part of the preambular section of the decision that established the intergovernmental negotiating body to draft and negotiate a World Health Organization (WHO) convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. To delete this paragraph is to remove one of the very reasons to convene such a meeting, he said, noting that he will vote against the draft amendment.
The representative of Mexico, aligning herself with Brazil, expressed regret that certain countries consider the factual reference to a decision by the World Health Assembly in preambular paragraph 11 unacceptable. That paragraph recognizes the need to confront gaps that still exist in global prevention, preparedness and response to health emergencies, particularly in the development and distribution of medical countermeasures. Stressing that pandemics affect all countries and the concomitant importance of unhindered access to vaccines for all, she urged delegations to vote against draft amendment “L.56”.
The representative of Malaysia said that his delegation is “perplexed” that certain countries have presented amendments that would upset the delicate balance struck in the draft resolution. The proposal to delete preambular paragraph 11 is “baffling”, he stressed, considering that it contains — verbatim — language previously agreed on by the World Health Assembly. Underscoring that this is “another example of stonewalling the priorities of the developing world”, he stressed that the resolution must reflect realities on the ground and address real problems faced worldwide. As such, his delegation will vote against the amendment.
The representative of China stated the co-facilitator’s final text reflects a balanced and constructive approach and won the support of a vast majority of Member States. However, a small minority, flouting the spirit of multilateralism, were bent on submitting their amendments to impose their own views — and more surprisingly, the changes sought are to limit the Charter of the United Nations, in an attempt to remove the consensus text unanimously adopted by the wider majority at the World Health Assembly. She called on all Member States to support the text.
The representative of South Africa noted that on 2 September 2022, his delegation submitted a resolution requesting a high-level meeting in New York during the seventy-eighth session of the General Assembly this September to find fair and long-lasting solutions to the global inequities and inadequate responses highlighted by the pandemic. Today’s resolution addresses the modalities of that very meeting. Calling the text a fair and balanced way to allow for productive discussion this coming September, he said the need to develop inclusive and durable solutions for pandemic preparedness, prevention and response is more vital than ever, requiring concerted political action and international finance. Stressing the amendment vote seeks to delete consensus language and undermine collective humanity in favour of individualism, his delegation will proudly vote against it — calling it regrettable that the other amendment has come at the last minute, with no opportunity to negotiate its relevance in the text.
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution submitted by its President titled “Scope, modalities, format and organization of the high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis” (document A/77/L.51) and adopted it by consensus.
Turning to “L.54”, the Assembly first adopted draft amendment “L.55” without a vote.
It then rejected draft amendment “L.56” by a recorded vote of 85 against to 40 in favour, with 9 abstentions (Angola, Australia, Canada, Ghana, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Switzerland).
The Assembly next took up “L.54” as amended.
The representative of Sweden called for a vote on preambular paragraph 11 of that amended draft.
By a recorded vote of 86 in favour to 41 against, with 8 abstentions (Angola, Australia, Canada, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Switzerland), the Assembly retained preambular paragraph 11.
It then adopted “L.54” as amended without a vote.
Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of Japan, welcoming the resolution, reiterated the importance of placing all health-related issues within the context of universal health coverage. While stressing the importance of ensuring access to existing health products such as medicines, diagnostics and vaccines, he said there is no doubt that in the event of another pandemic caused by emerging pathogens such as COVID-19, the ability to rapidly develop new high-quality health products will be essential. Therefore, ensuring access to existing health products should be mentioned in proper balance with the development of new health products, he said, adding that the wording of preambular paragraph 11 was inappropriate.
The representative of Mexico, noting that her country joined the consensus, said that while consensus is a desirable aspiration, it should not become an end in itself. General Assembly decisions are made by the majority by voting, she pointed out, adding that consensus and unanimity are different from each other. Expressing regret that this is an unnecessary limiting factor in the draft resolutions that are being adopted today, she said her country will make proactive efforts in the fight against covert tuberculosis and preparedness for future pandemics to achieve results that go above and beyond the text.
The representative of Canada, also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, said that the countries abstained. She expressed similar concerns with the countries that voted in favour of the amendment in reference to the term “unhindered access”, noting that it has different meanings for different delegations and is still being discussed in more technically focused forums. Recognizing that the draft text is making a factual reference to a preambular paragraph in decision SSA2(5) and underscoring that her delegation did not vote to amend the reference in the preambular paragraph of this modality resolution, she said she will not support stronger or action-oriented text in a political declaration.
The representative of Switzerland, underscoring the importance of ensuring complementarity of discussions and work between Geneva and New York, opposed references from the text agreed during the special session of WHO in November 2021 and deletion of preambular paragraph 11. Pointing out the impossibility of voting in favour of the paragraph and in order to avoid setting a precedent for the substantive discussion, she said her delegation would abstain from the proposed amendment.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that his delegation joined consensus on the draft resolution, as it supports the approval of plans to hold such an important global-health event. However, this cannot be interpreted as support for including paragraphs on issues of substance in modalities resolutions in the General Assembly. Such issues will be discussed during the negotiations relating to the upcoming high-level meeting’s political declaration. He went on to express disappointment regarding the language in operative paragraph 10 pertaining to the General Assembly’s role in approving the list of non-governmental organizations participating in the meeting. Further, on preambular paragraph 8’s reference to financing so-called “global commons” for pandemic preparedness and response, he noted that the term “global commons”, as used in the expert community, is not an agreed term in the United Nations.