Delegates Support Multilateralism, Disagree on United Nations Reform, Peacekeeping Mandates, as General Assembly Takes Up Annual Report of Organization’s Work

Facilitating diplomacy, preventing conflicts and uniting countries around efforts to combat terrorism, climate change and other rapidly evolving global crises were among the United Nations most critical tasks, the General Assembly heard today, as it took up Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' first annual report on the work of the Organization.

Prior to taking note of the report (document A/72/1) � which was introduced during the Assembly's third plenary meeting [see Press Release GA/11947 of 19 September] � Member States expressed broad support for the Secretary-General's focus on multilateralism, conflict prevention and diplomacy. However, speakers diverged on various issues, ranging from the content of peacekeeping mandates to how best to reform the United Nations itself. Some also voiced concern about the inclusion � or lack thereof � of references to particular trends, countries and conflicts.

Multilateralism is not optional � we agree on that, said Armenia's representative, describing the report as a manifestation of support for that approach and a fresh reminder that individual States could not address global challenges alone. Voicing support for the Secretary-General's decision to place the doctrine of prevention at the heart of the United Nations work, he said the acceptance of that principle would also necessitate a human rights-based approach, and welcomed the report's emphasis on the promotion of human rights and instruments to strengthen them.

Colombia's representative said her country had found in the United Nations an effective partner in the path towards ending its more than 50-year-old civil conflict, including through the deployment of an initial peace mission and the just-launched United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia. In addition, the initiative to achieve gender parity at the United Nations senior management level by 2021 � outlined in the report � brought the Organization closer to a goal that had eluded it for decades. We do believe this is possible, she stressed. Noting that the proposal to structurally transform the Secretariat was necessary and would lead to results on the ground, she underscored the need to eliminate the obstacles posed by bureaucratic red tape, adding: We have enough diagnosis, now we need to act.

Among other speakers voicing support for efforts to reform the United Nations and reduce the burden of bureaucracy was the representative of Belarus, who called for more clarity and transparency in the interactions between Member States and the Secretariat. Noting that the latter still failed to hear the voice of the former in many cases, he stressed that the United Nations belongs to all States without exception and that red tape and the introduction of new rules forced States to focus on technical and logistical issues, instead of substantive tasks. In addition, it was high time for the United Nations to pay more attention to the group of middle-income countries, which had to date not been factored into the Organization's work but accounted for a large percentage of the world's poor.

Jamaica's representative, striking a similar tone, expressed support for the report's recognition of the special circumstances of middle-income countries, which reinforced his country's longstanding contention that per capita income as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) did not reflect the full picture of their development status. Nevertheless, he said, Jamaica would have welcomed a specific reference to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the portion of the report that focused on the important role of partnerships in advancing the United Nations work.

Iran's representative, echoing the Secretary-General's concern that multilateralism is being questioned at a time when we most need coherent global responses to interconnected events, warned against any attempt to undermine the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action � or the Iran Nuclear Deal � agreed between his country and China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. On the issue of peacekeeping, he stressed that United Nations peace missions should not engage in military counter-terrorism operations � which should instead be undertaken by host countries � and joined other speakers in expressing support for the recent establishment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism.

The Russian Federation's delegate � noting that some of the concepts addressed in the Secretary-General's report were not without ambiguity � warned against overly broad interpretations of peacekeeping, as Member States had never agreed to any overall change in the peacekeeping agenda. Similarly, the United Nations support of conflict prevention activities could be offered only in strict conformity with the United Nations Charter, the approval of concerned States and under the authority of the Security Council. Also warning against one-dimensional interpretations relating to mass migration trends, he went on to raise additional concerns about the report's treatment of justice and drug control, as well as its support for the establishment of an illegitimate mechanism to investigate crimes in Syria.

Syria's representative, also rejecting references to that mechanism, stressed that it had been established by a Security Council resolution that had not been adopted by consensus, was full of political and legal holes and had been submitted by countries well-known for their anti-Syrian views. Describing the mechanism as a blatant violation of his country's right over its domestic affairs, he also voiced concern that the new United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism � which had potential to help address the root causes of terrorism � was being funded by voluntary contributions, including from one country that was well-known for its support to terrorists.

Several speakers also made concrete proposals regarding the United Nations work as well as the format of the Secretary-General's report itself. In that regard, Singapore's representative recommended that the annual report focus more on results, include an annex outlining some of the key statistics and figures on the United Nations positive impact each year, and add a concise list of the Secretary-General's priorities and objectives for the upcoming year, which would help Member States better understand his main areas of focus.

Kazakhstan's delegate, meanwhile, proposed the adoption of a Code of Conduct for the Achievement of a Terrorism-Free World, which would positively strengthen regional and global cooperation in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law.

In other business, the Assembly announced the appointment of Mohammed Hussein Bahr Aluloom (Iraq) as Chair of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) at its seventy-second session.

Also speaking were the representatives of Cuba, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 9 October, to take up the annual report of the Economic and Social Council.

Statements

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said the Secretary-General's report on the work of the Organization was a manifestation of support for multilateralism, and a fresh reminder that individual States could not address global challenges alone. Multilateralism is not optional � we agree on that, he said, adding that the United Nations required reform to increase its effectiveness. Expressing support for the Secretary-General's analytical work on that issue and his close engagement with Member States, he also welcomed the Secretary-General's decision to place the doctrine of prevention at the heart of the United Nations work. If early prevention was accepted as the most effective option, a human rights-based approach would be equally crucial, he said, noting that a reinforced emphasis on the promotion of human rights and efforts to strengthen instruments to those ends was reflected in the report.

Noting that only strong States would be able to deliver on the reform agenda and engage in effective prevention, he said early prevention required early warning mechanisms, which were the main responsibility of Member States. Warning against irresponsible actions such as hate speech and the glorification of hate crimes, especially by State leaders, he said such actions should be a major concern to all Member States and considered as a signal of a potential coming crisis. Urging the United Nations should therefore bolster its efforts to prevent genocide, he went on to underscore the importance of efforts to achieve sustainable development and outline several national strategies to those aims. The Secretary-General concluded his report with an invitation to reflect on our collective conscience, he said, reminding all Member States that they bore a responsibility in that regard.

ANA SILVIA RODRA�GUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) agreed that the Secretary�General's report underlined the importance of multilateralism and compromise. Today, some 700 million people continued to live in extreme poverty and natural disasters threatened the entire infrastructure of many developing countries, many of which lacked the financial resources and technologies needed to successfully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the national level. Outlining many of Cuba's development successes � including its early eradication of the mother-to-child transmission of HIV � she said cooperation among States based on the principles of non-interference and mutual respect was critical, as was the full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and non-interference in their domestic affairs.

Reversing the current unequal world order required ending colonialism and occupation, halting the use of unilateral coercive sanctions and ensuring respect for the political systems that countries had selected for themselves, she said. Rejecting the long-standing economic and financial blockade imposed against her country by the United States � which deprived Cubans of their right to development � she said that for the United Nations to become more democratic and effective, the Assembly must be strengthened and its work must not be interfered with by the Security Council. This is a goal we can no longer postpone, she stressed.

MARA�A EMMA MEJA�A VA�LEZ (Colombia), voicing hope that future reports of the Secretary-General would reflect the ambitious current efforts under way to strengthen and reform the United Nations, said some Member States had already seen success in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Other recent sources of optimism included the conclusion of the Paris Agreement on climate change, among other important multilateral accords. This stresses the absolute relevance of the United Nations to address today's challenges, she said, calling on Member States to be extremely bold in their approach to bringing about sustainable peace. We need to make this institution agile and able to achieve results, she said.

The initiative to achieve gender parity at the United Nations senior management level by 2021 brought the Organization closer to a goal that had eluded it for decades, she said, adding we do believe this is possible. Colombia had found in the United Nations an effective partner in its national path towards peace, including through the deployment of an initial peace mission and the just-launched United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia. Noting that the proposal to structurally transform the Secretariat was necessary and would lead to results on the ground � working toward the United Nations goal of assisting men, women and children around the world � she stressed that bureaucratic red tape could no longer be an obstacle to achieving that goal or to addressing the numerous specific challenges listed in the Secretary-General's report. We have enough diagnosis, now we need to act, she said.

BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) supported the Secretary-General's commitment to reforming the United Nations to make it more effective, nimble and accountable to improve delivery of the Organization's mandate and make a real impact on the ground. Singapore would like to see the Secretary-General's annual report focus more on results, specifically on what the United Nations was doing to make a difference on the ground. In that context, he proposed creating an annex to the report that would outline some of the key statistics and figures on the United Nations positive impact globally each year. Further, his delegation proposed that the report include a concise list of the Secretary-General's priorities and objectives for the upcoming year, which would help Member States better understand his main areas of focus. Throughout the report, the importance of effective partnerships between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations was highlighted, and in that context, Singapore believed the partnership between the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must be strengthened.

VALENTIN RYBAKOV (Belarus), echoing support for the prioritization of prevention activities, said peacebuilding and peacekeeping must not be regarded as purely post-conflict activities. Reforming the United Nations must not be conducted without consultation among all Member States, not just donors, as it was only through joint efforts that an effective reform process would be carried out. As reform efforts were carried out, we must not lose the advantages of the system that have already proven themselves, he said, calling for a smoother functioning of the Organization on the ground in line with the priorities of Member States. The initiative aimed at improving the United Nations peacekeeping forces and aligning them with current contexts was also important, but the Organization must avoid getting bogged down in bureaucratic reorganizations.

Underlining the importance of the gender aspect of peacekeeping, he commended the Secretary-General's work in that regard. It was high time for the United Nations to pay more attention to the group of middle-income countries, he said, which had to date not been factored into the Organization's work but accounted for a large percentage of the world's poor people. Calling for more clarity and transparency in the interactions between Member States and the Secretariat, he said the latter still failed to hear the voice of the former in many cases. Red tape and the introduction of new rules forced States to focus on technical and logistical issues instead of substantive tasks. In that regard, he added that the United Nations belongs to all States without exception, stressing that the recognition of that fact would help the Organization overcome global criticism of its work and become more useful to all those who needed it.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) highlighted that the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality were not unique to South Africa and were present across all regions of the world. The international community needed to be creative in finding ways to build a more equal and just socioeconomic world order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. South Africa continued with its commitment to ensure the respect for, promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. South Africa supported the establishment of a Convention on the Right to Development within the human rights family of instruments and the Secretary-General's vision to create a culture of prevention with a view toward identifying and addressing the root causes of conflict. His Government also welcomed the Secretary-General's prioritization of partnerships with regional organizations and the continued support for the African Union's efforts to resolve conflict on the continent by promoting African solutions to African problems.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) agreed that the current global situation was characterized by deepening divisions, increasing polarization, growing unemployment among young people, threats posed by climate change and other evolving crises. While there was a need to adapt the Organization to better address such threats, some reform ideas and suggestions listed in the Secretary-General's report were not without ambiguity. In the section on multipolarity, for example, he stressed that the Organization's work was fundamentally intergovernmental in nature, and Member States had the main authority in that regard. Peacekeeping should not be interpreted in an overly broad way, as Member States had never agreed to any overall change in the peacekeeping agenda. Similarly, the United Nations support of conflict prevention activities could be offered only in strict conformity with the United Nations Charter, the approval of concerned States and under the authority of the Security Council. Indeed, the main responsibility in that regard lay with States themselves, and early prevention efforts must not be based on indicators that could lead to overly broad or arbitrary interpretations.

Pointing out that many past conflicts had been triggered by foreign interference in the affairs of States � including attempts at regime change � he underlined the need to view development and peace and stability as separate. Indeed, while the concepts were linked, development could not ensure peace and stability per se, nor vice versa. All United Nations bodies must therefore maintain their independence and avoid duplication of efforts. Also warning against one-dimensional interpretations of climate change as the source of mass migration � which were not fully shared by all Member States � he went on to note that the report presented the issues of justice and the rule of law only as in the section on human rights. That was a one-sided approach, he said, adding that other key issues such as drug control were treated in a similar manner. In addition, the report expressed support for an illegitimate mechanism to investigate crimes in Syria, which had been established in breach of the Charter.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) said that it was evident that the world was in a state of flux, and that the Secretary-General's report succinctly brought out some of the most pressing current global challenges, while pointing to weaknesses within the United Nations system and making a compelling case for reform. India appreciated the establishment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism aimed at consolidating the Organization's efforts to prevent terrorism and violent extremism. India welcomed the push towards greater gender balance in senior appointments and initiatives to end sexual exploitation and abuse. Efforts to tackle the fundamental fragmentation in the way work was organized at the United Nations would improve delivery, nevertheless, he questioned whether the proposed reforms would make the United Nations fit for purpose and able to address the challenges the international community faced.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), agreeing with the Secretary-General's assessment that the international situation was marked by conflicting trends, said that while important progress had been made in fighting extreme poverty, illiteracy, hunger and disease, the dividends of those gains remained unequally distributed. Terrorism, which had mutated into new and more dangerous forms, had yet to be defeated. At a time when international cooperation is needed the most to address the myriad of interrelated and mutually reinforcing challenges, the world is becoming more divided and polarized, she stressed. Calling for reform efforts to include the transformation of the Security Council into a more representative, democratic and accountable body � rather than an expanded club for the powerful and the privileged � she voiced support for efforts on prevention and diplomacy as the best responses to any threats to peace. While respect for human rights and justice was at the core of the Secretary-General's efforts in that regard, she said those universal ideals were being violated in plain sight in places such as Palestine and Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmiris had waged a heroic and popular struggle against occupation, with hundreds killed or maimed.

India did not deny such actions, but rather defended them, she continued. That country attempted to cover up its crimes by carrying out daily violations of the ceasefire along the Line of Control, providing significant justification for Pakistan to respond in exercise of its right to self-defence. Warning India not to underestimate her country's resolve and capacity in that regard, she said any aggression or intervention would be met with a matching and effective response. Urging the United Nations not to ignore India's open threats to use force, she said Member States could not allow that country impunity to conduct its crimes against humanity in Kashmir under the flimsy cover of combating terrorism. In that regard, she outlined Pakistan's own significant efforts to combat terrorism, and urged the international community to address its underlying causes, including poverty, ignorance, social and political exclusion, foreign intervention and the denial of economic and political justice.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) said that in his report, the Secretary-General made a strong, clear and unambiguous case for multilateralism. The threats and risks that the international community was confronted with could not be tackled by States in isolation, but required the vigorous pursuit of collective action. His delegation was especially pleased that the report acknowledged the unique challenges that beset middle-income countries, which reinforced his country's longstanding contention that per capita income as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) did not reflect the full picture of the development status of those countries. The Secretary-General made a timely and relevant assertion that the United Nations advocacy for disarmament was more vital than ever, he noted, stressing that multilateral action on all disarmament and non-proliferation fronts remained of great importance. Jamaica supported the Secretary-General's focus on the elimination of all forms of violence against women and children. However, his country would have welcomed a specific reference to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the portion of the report that focused on the important role of partnerships in advancing the Organization's work.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) echoed the Secretary-General's concern that multilateralism is being questioned at a time when we most need coherent global responses to interconnected events. One important recent multilateral agreement had been the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action � or the Iran Nuclear Deal � agreed between his country and China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. That accord, which served as a testament to the value of diplomacy, must be preserved from any attempt to undermine it. The recent adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had been another significant step forward, reflecting a collective protest to an almost 50-year-long violation of nuclear disarmament obligations by the world's nuclear weapons States. Iran had nevertheless expected the Secretary-General's report to include references to the alarming trends of a new nuclear arms race � as well as a new race to modernize such weapons � and calls for putting an immediate end to such races.

On the issue of peacekeeping, he stressed that United Nations peace missions should not engage in military counter-terrorism operations, which should be undertaken instead by host countries. Voicing support for the recent establishment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism � which among other things could help the Organization address terrorism's root causes � he emphasized that the Office must be given sufficient financial resources from the United Nations regular budget, and noted with concern that in the new structure most positions would be financed through voluntary funds. On United Nations reform, he stressed that all related efforts should work to align the Organization's development system with the policies, priorities and needs of developing countries, with an emphasis on national ownership and leadership at the country level. Efforts were also needed to address the particular challenges faced by the Middle East.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) endorsed the Secretary-General's plan on bold and much-needed system-wide reform on issues ranging from the United Nations management to its gender parity and human resources, and pledged to contribute to those efforts. As the first country representing Central Asia on the Security Council, Kazakhstan supported efforts to promote security and stability in that region, and emphasized the need for compliance with international law as the bedrock of all national, regional and global peace and security efforts. Upholding the principles of national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of States will prevent humanity from repeating the tragic mistakes of the past, he said, underscoring the importance of respecting the principles of international law while also working to protect civilians.

Welcoming the Secretary-General's reform efforts, he agreed that clear peacekeeping mandates with achievable goals and the enhanced use of regional forces would bring about greater relevance, effectiveness and accountability. Engaging new countries would also reduce the deployment gap for rapid reaction emergency responses, he said, voicing support for the concept of sustaining peace and global efforts to fight terrorism. In that regard, he proposed the adoption of a Code of Conduct for the Achievement of a Terrorism-Free World, which would positively strengthen regional and global cooperation in accordance with the Charter and international law. Turning to sustainable development, he said despite Kazakhstan's abundant conventional energy sources, it was deeply committed to a green, diversified economy with alternative energy sources, as well as to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) underscored that poverty, inequality, economic fragility, unemployment, conflict, the adverse impacts of climate change, governance shortcomings and illegal migration were among the challenges that threatened efforts to create a world free from want and fear. Two years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, it was evident that optimism had dissipated. Multifaceted and transnational challenges required transboundary actions, as no single country � irrespective of how powerful it may be � could solve global problems alone. The United Nations should be fit for purpose to support developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable, to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, in line with their national priorities. Achieving inclusive and sustainable development, as well as building a participatory democratic system, had been the overriding policy objectives of the Ethiopian Government, although, the country was fully aware that without renewed international cooperation, it would be unlikely to fully eradicate poverty.

AMMAR AWAD (Syria), noting that the United Nations was an intergovernmental organization in which Member States were the decision-makers, welcomed the creation of the Office of Counter-Terrorism which could help address the root causes of the phenomenon. However, he expressed concern about the funding of that Office, which included financing by one country that was well-known to support terrorists. The Secretary-General's report had made no reference to that support, nor to the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands or the application of unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States, the European Union and other nations against several countries � including Syria � which were not in line with the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Strongly rejecting references in paragraph 115 of the report regarding the establishment of an international, impartial and independent mechanism to investigate crimes in Syria, he said that instrument had been established by a resolution that had not been adopted by consensus, was full of political and legal holes and submitted by countries well-known for their anti-Syrian views. The mechanism was a blatant violation of Syria's right over its own domestic affairs, he stressed.

Right of Reply

The representative of India, in response to the statement delivered by the representative of Pakistan, described those remarks as a lonely voice from the wilderness focused on a topic from the past. The world has moved on, she said, noting that such dated arguments were symbolic of what holds us all back.

The representative of Pakistan stressed that repeating groundless allegations and fabrications was self-delusional, as was the belief that Jammu and Kashmir were a part of India. Indeed, it had never been and would never be, and no amount of obfuscation could hide the fact that it was occupied by Indian troops.

Source: United Nations

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