Seventy-eighth Session,
85th Meeting (PM)

General Assembly Adopts Texts to Support Conflict-Affected in Georgia, Address Central Asian Illicit Drug Trade

Organ’s Resolutions Must Be Translated into Action, Stresses Its President

The General Assembly adopted two resolutions today, one by recorded vote concerning the rights of persons affected by the conflicts in Georgia and another by consensus on regional cooperation in tackling drug-related challenges in Central Asia.

The annual text on “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia” (document A/78/L.74) was adopted by a recorded vote of 103 in favour to 9 against (Belarus, Burundi, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mali, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Zimbabwe), with 53 abstentions.  

Through the resolution, the Assembly recognized the right of return of all internally displaced persons and refugees and their descendants — regardless of ethnicity — to their homes throughout Georgia, including in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.  It also stressed the need to respect their property rights.

Further terms underlined the urgent need for unimpeded humanitarian access to all persons residing in all conflict-affected areas throughout Georgia, as well as the need to develop a timetable to ensure the voluntary, safe, dignified and unhindered return of all internally displaced persons and refugees affected by the conflicts in that country.  The Assembly also called on all participants in the Geneva discussions to intensify their efforts to establish a durable peace.

Introducing that text, the representative of Georgia said that it aims to address the humanitarian plight of internally displaced persons and refugees who were forced to flee their homes due to multiple waves of ethnic cleansing that culminated in full-scale military aggression in 2008.  Those individuals have been deprived of their fundamental right to return to their place of origin in safety and dignity, he emphasized.  Calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, he said that this resolution is human-centred and aims to uphold lasting, durable peace in the region.

The text also underlines the unacceptability of forced demographic changes, he said, stressing the need to create security conditions conducive to the safe, voluntary and unhindered return of all internally displaced persons and refugees to their countries of origin. He further detailed the various forms of discrimination ethnic Georgians continue to endure in both occupied regions, including a violation of their right to life, arbitrary detention, infringement on their right to property and restrictions on education in their native language.

However, the representative of the Russian Federation, whose delegation voted against the draft, said that its purpose is to shift attention using humanitarian concern for refugees and internally displaced persons as cover.  Georgia is imposing a one-sided, political view of the refugee issue on the international community, she said, calling on that country to constructively engage in resolving issues based on the principle of peaceful coexistence.  Venezuela’s delegate — who also voted against the text — described it as divisive and politicized and, adding that it deepens tensions, said that diplomatic negotiation is the way forward.

The representative of Brazil, whose delegation abstained, said that these issues would be better addressed by talks in Geneva, mediated by the United Nations and other partners.  However, he pointed out that his delegation’s abstention should be interpreted neither as a lack of concern for the human tragedy of displaced people, nor a lack of support for Georgia’s territorial integrity.  Reaffirming the right of displaced people to return, he called for confidence-building measures within the framework of ongoing discussions in Geneva.

The broad support the text enjoyed was demonstrated in statements from numerous delegates who expressed concern over the Russian Federation’s actions and voiced support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ukraine’s delegate, noting that it has been 16 years since the Russian Federation launched its military aggression against Georgia, said that Georgian residents continue to face threats to their lives from “so-called Russian border guards”.  The resolution addresses the question of protracted displacement, she said, and is an opportunity for Member States to reaffirm their commitment to refugees’ and internally displaced people’s right to return.  Calling on the international community to end the Russian Federation’s aggressions against its neighbors, she stressed that only by holding Moscow accountable can lasting peace return to the region.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, expressed concern over the persistent humanitarian challenges in the conflict-affected regions. Such access is stipulated in the Six-Point Agreement that was mediated by his bloc, he said.  Underscoring the right of refugees and internally displaced people to choose a durable solution — including voluntary return — as well as to exercise property rights, she called on participants in the Geneva International Discussions to engage in genuine dialogue. 

Along those lines, the representative of Lithuania, also speaking for Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Norway and Sweden, said that no international human-rights monitoring mechanism has unrestricted access to assess this situation.  He added that the European Court of Human Rights established that, while in effective control over Georgian Abkhaz territory, the Russian Federation is responsible for multiple human-rights violations.  Also welcoming the 2022 International Criminal Court decision to issue arrest warrants for three individuals charged with war crimes in connection with Moscow’s invasion, he stressed that “more needs to be done”. 

While hailing the Georgian Government’s cooperation with international organizations and its commitment to provide internally displaced persons with necessary support, he expressed concern over the recent adoption by that country’s Parliament of a law on “transparency of foreign influence”. He cautioned that this legislation, “if enforced, would limit the capacity of civil society and media organizations to operate freely, restrict the right to freedom of expression and negatively affect international assistance, including to internally displaced persons”.

Japan’s delegate, for her part, said that the text embodies solidarity with civilians that are most impacted in the conflict-affected regions, while the representative of Australia — also speaking for Canada and New Zealand — stressed the importance of respecting the right of displaced people to a safe and voluntary return.  The United Kingdom’s representative, meanwhile, urged the Russian Federation to end its illegal presence in parts of Georgia.

The representative of Armenia urged a peaceful resolution to the conflict based on the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, calling on the parties to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue with full respect for the principles of international law.  Israel’s delegate, underlining the need to respect Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, said that his country actively supports the work of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which fosters peacebuilding through capacity-building.

At the beginning of the meeting, Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the General Assembly at its seventy-eighth session, noted that “a record number of people [are] on the move” globally, with more than 100 million people forced to flee their homes.  Calling for their safe and voluntary return, he highlighted the deteriorating human-rights situation of the ethnic Georgian population in conflict-affected areas.  Also reaffirming support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia — and the peaceful resolution of all conflicts in the region — he said that, amidst the heightening tensions of the current moment, it is crucial that the Assembly’s resolutions be translated into action on the ground.

Also adopted today was a resolution concerning “Central Asia’s unified resolve and cooperation to effectively address and counter drug-related challenges” (document A/78/L.68).  That text, adopted without a vote, acknowledged the efforts of Central Asian States to actively promote a society free from drug abuse by considering the development of comprehensive, balanced, scientific-evidence-based and multidisciplinary strategies.  Through the resolution, the Assembly called on relevant UN institutions to assist such States in countering the illicit production and trafficking of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, as well as the laundering of proceeds from drug-related crime.

Additionally, the Assembly invited these States to consider enhancing cooperation between public-health, education and law-enforcement authorities when developing and implementing scientific-evidence-based drug-related prevention initiatives.  It further welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Information Centre with a view to enhancing data collection and driving scientific-evidence-based policies.

Introducing that text, the representative of Uzbekistan highlighted the ongoing trend towards unity and collaboration among Central Asian States.  Their collective political will has helped develop mutually beneficial cooperation and strategic engagement with international partners, and the text outlines their comprehensive approach to disrupt regional drug-trafficking networks.  These States have assumed shared responsibility in addressing the supply of — and demand for — drugs through an integrated strategy and an evidence-based approach, he said, adding that these efforts also take human rights into account.

Azerbaijan’s delegate welcomed the text, describing it as “a vivid example” of the sustained determination of Central Asian countries to create societies free from drug abuse.  Highlighting the cooperation between such countries in areas ranging from trade and transport to science and technology, she also drew attention to her country’s constructive collaboration with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The representative of Türkiye, underscoring that the global drug problem must be addressed comprehensively, said that UNODC — the leading entity for international drug policy — should play its impartial role. Türkiye is a leader in seizing opioids and methamphetamine, he added, as it occupies a vital position on the Balkan route — historically the most heavily used avenue for opioid trafficking originating in Central Asia.

The representative of the Russian Federation also highlighted UNODC’s primary role, expressing solidarity with the aspirations of Central Asian States to build a society free from narcotics.  Welcoming their decisiveness, he said that the three anti-narcotics conventions remain the bedrock of global efforts to address drug trafficking.  It is especially vital to counter the illicit flow of narcotics entering the region from abroad, he said.

The representative of the United States, for his part, highlighted the need for international cooperation in tackling the rising threat of synthetic drugs.  Treatment, harm reduction, recovery support and law enforcement are all essential elements, he said.  The representative of Saudi Arabia voiced support for all drug-control efforts, such as implementing preventive programmes and information campaigns to raise youth awareness.  China’s delegate, highlighting his Government’s readiness to work with all parties, said that the text embodies “zero tolerance” to the drug problem.

Though the text was adopted without a vote, some delegates expressed reservations.  Singapore, that country’s delegate said, is a target country for drugs flooding the region.  Drawing attention to UNODC’s finding that “East and South-East Asia were swimming in methamphetamine” in 2022, she stressed that any discussion on this issue should focus on areas of agreement among States — rather than on the narrow interest of some.

The representative of Switzerland, meanwhile, stressed that the scope of the text cannot be global and dissociated from the concept of “a society free of drug abuse”.  This is outdated and unrealistic, he said, and can result in stigmatization.  The representative of Belgium, speaking for the European Union, voiced regret that the Human Rights Council and its relevant resolutions were not mentioned in the text.

Canada’s delegate stressed that drug policies must be gender-responsive and include a human-rights perspective.  He, too, cautioned against developing “standalone regional resolutions” that may affect global efforts to address drug-related challenges in other United Nations forums.  Mexico’s delegate also voiced concern regarding fragmentation, but welcomed the gender perspective and human-rights elements included in the text.  Colombia’s delegate, while citing her country’s experience that isolated and fragmented approaches do not work, nevertheless reiterated her delegation’s support for regional cooperation.

For information media. Not an official record.