General Assembly

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 19 (APP): The General Assembly, acting on the recommendation of its General committee, Friday adopted a 183-item agenda for its seventy-fifth session that includes world’s most vexing issues — from poverty and economic development to peace and security.

The 193-member Assembly, which had before it the first report of its General Committee — the Assembly’s steering body — also formally endorsed the recommendation that its general debate will be held from September 22 to 26.  For the first time in UN history, the debate will be held almost entirely online, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and regulations on international travel and large gatherings.

World leaders, including Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, and top officials will submit video statements to be played in the General Assembly Hall. Underpinning this year’s agenda , which includes 11 new items, is the theme of multilateralism.  World leaders are expected to debate issues including the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and sustainable development. Discussions on climate change, biodiversity, and nuclear disarmament are also on the agenda.

At Friday’s session of President of the Assembly’s seventy-fifth session, Volkan Bozkir, a veteran Turkish diplomat, highlighted that the General Committee drew the world body’s attention to the fact that practical arrangements for the conduct of the current session will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including with regard to whether or not certain events take place, how they are conducted and the number of attendees.

He noted that all changes reflect risk assessments and advice provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Committee of the Crisis Operations Group, and are also based on host city and state guidance, the current phase of the COVID-19 reintegration plan for the United Nations Headquarters complex and an up-to-date understanding of the risks posed by the pandemic to delegates and United Nations personnel.

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The Assembly also formally endorsed the decision, without setting a precedent, that where physical presence is not practicable, a pre-recorded statement can be submitted by those who are invited to make opening statements at the high-level meeting to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, scheduled to be held on Monday, 21 September.

All but one agenda item was approved by consensus, with Member States disagreeing on the inclusion of the topic known as the “responsibility to protect”. By a recorded vote of 101 in favour to 13 against, with 22 abstentions, the Assembly decided to include the item “The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.

Prior to taking action on the item, several delegates explained their opposition to the item’s inclusion, with Syria’s representative, while requesting a recorded vote on the matter, saying that including it would only deepen existing misunderstandings, especially since some Governments continue to use the concept as a pretext for interference and the imposition of unilateral economic sanctions.

The representatives of Nicaragua and Iran said, among other things, that there is no clear definition of the concept. Cuba’s delegate said the item’s inclusion is premature, and the Russian Federation’s representative called for adopting the previous approach of holding informal discussions. Several delegates, including those from Denmark and Ukraine, indicated that they would vote in favour of its inclusion. The representative of Germany said divergent views are best addressed through dialogue, and there is clearly a desire to discuss this issue.

Pakistan was among the delegations that cast an abstention on the item’s inclusion.
Other topics to be considered during the session included: Promoting investments for sustainable development; Global Code of Ethics for Tourism; Question of the Comorian island of Mayotte; Crimes against humanity; Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – residual functions; Joint courses of action and future-oriented dialogue towards a world without nuclear weapons; Strengthening and developing the system of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and agreements; and Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to address the General Assembly on September 25 by video-link. “The prime minister is expected once again to project the just cause of the Kashmiri people and call for action by the international community to halt India’s massive violations of human rights, rescind the unilateral measures imposed in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir since 5th August 2019 and promote a solution in accordance with the Security Council resolutions and the will of the Kashmiri people,” Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram told APP special correspondent.

“He is also likely to speak about Islamophobia, including the BJP-RSS campaign against Indian Muslims; as well as on illicit financial flows and the reform and revival of the United Nations,” Ambassador Akram said. The Prime Minister is also likely to address from Islamabad the Summit meeting on Financing for Development on Sept. 29 and the Bio-Diversity Summit on September 30.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is scheduled to speak in the UN’s 75th Anniversary Session on September 21, and at a High-Level Meeting of the UN Alliance of Civilizations September 28. He will also address the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women on October 1.

In the hybrid format adopted for this year, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister’s video statements will be introduced by Ambassador Akram, who will be physically present in the General Assembly Hall. Each member state will send one diplomat to the hall in order to maintain social distancing.