Delegates Postpone until 2022 Fourth Session of Conference to Negotiate Marine Biological Diversity Treaty

The General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted one resolution and two decisions today which addressed the United Nations cooperation with the Pacific Islands Forum, intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform and the next round of talks for a treaty regarding marine biological diversity.

In adopting the resolution titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum”, introduced by Tuvalu’s representative, the Assembly welcomed progress towards enhancing cooperation between the Organization and the 18-member regional group.

It acknowledged the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Pacific region and the need for urgent action to address climate change.  It also encouraged the Secretary-General to meet with Forum leaders on the margins of the Assembly’s next general debate in September.

Adopting a draft decision presented by its President, as orally amended by Qatar’s representative, the Assembly decided that intergovernmental negotiations on enlarging the 15-member Security Council will continue during its upcoming seventy-sixth session.

Routinely adopted by consensus every year, the text was the focus of robust debate when it was introduced on 16 June after Brazil, also on behalf of Germany, India and Japan, proposed an amendment that would recall the commitment of world leaders, made at the start of the Assembly’s seventy-fifth session in September 2020, to “instil new life” into the long-running negotiations.

The so-called Group of Four also sought, through the amendment, to make an “elements paper” on areas of divergence and convergence — drafted by the representatives of Poland and Qatar in their capacity as Co-Chairs of the negotiations — a basis for future discussions.

Qatar’s representative proposed an oral amendment to include a reference to the commitment by Heads of State and Government made in their Declaration of the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations.  In doing so, it opened the way for the 193-member Assembly to overcome deadlock and proceed by consensus.

In explanations of position, delegates from African Member States reasserted the African Union’s common position — set out in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration — that an enlarged Council must include at least two permanent members from the continent.  African issues dominate the Council’s agenda, yet never has Africa had a permanent Council seat.

Germany’s delegate agreed with his counterpart from South Africa that negotiations should be text-based going forward.  However, he disputed claims that putting the Group of Four’s draft amendment to a vote would have been a disaster.  The members of the Group of Four support each other’s bid for permanent Council seats.

Finally, the Assembly decided to postpone until 2022 the fourth session of the intergovernmental conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  It had initially postponed the fourth session on 11 March 2020 in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 23 June, to consider its annual draft resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”.

Security Council Reform

The General Assembly first resumed its consideration of a draft oral decision, submitted by its President, through which it would immediately continue intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform at its seventy-sixth session, as well as a draft oral amendment, submitted by Brazil, Germany, India and Japan.  (See Press Release GA/12338.)

[By its terms, the draft amendment would have the Assembly reaffirm the commitment of Heads of State and Government to “instil new life in the discussion of the reform of the Security Council”.  The Assembly would also decide that the next round of intergovernmental negotiations would be based on an “elements paper”, prepared by the negotiations’ Co-Chairs, which set out points of convergence and divergence during five rounds of talks during the seventy-fifth session.]

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, said that, when the Assembly took up this draft oral decision on 16 June, it prompted one of the liveliest debates of the seventy-fifth session, with more than 35 speakers taking the floor.  After listening to all delegations, he determined that more time was required for consultations, so he suspended the agenda item until today to allow for further consultations.  He described the draft oral decision as a technical rollover which will hopefully be adopted by consensus, as it has in past years.

The representative of Qatar recalled that she and her fellow Co-Chair of the intergovernmental negotiations, Joanna Wronecka (Poland), had recommended, in their 12 May letter to the President of the Assembly, a rollover of its work to the seventy-sixth session.  She proposed that the first paragraph of the draft oral decision include the reference to the commitment made by Heads of State and Government about instilling new life in the Council reform discussions.  She hoped that this proposal is agreeable to Member States.

The representative of Brazil, speaking on behalf of the Group of Four, expressed support for Qatar’s current proposal with regard to how the Intergovernmental Negotiations Group should go forward, including through dialogue and confidence-building.  Highlighting the Group of Four’s proposed amendment to recognize the Ezulwini consensus and the Common African Position on equitable Council representation for Africa, he said the current draft resolution should not merely be a technical rollover, as it would not reflect the keen efforts of the Co-Chairs.  Divergent views may come into play, but they are an inherent part of debate in the Assembly.  Expressing hope the proposed amendment is adopted, he pledged to work constructively on efforts to implement Security Council reform.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the “L.69” Group, said that instilling new life in the Security Council means that tangible progress must be made.  As such, she expressed support for the draft oral decision and said Group members will continue to support the Common African Position in terms of equitable representation on the Council.  These negotiations must reflect the views of the United Nations membership, as this is a Member State-driven process, she said, reiterating the Group’s commitment towards concrete progress on Council reform.

The representative of Kuwait, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the Group supported the proposal made by Qatar’s representative.  The Assembly and the intergovernmental negotiation process are the primary setting for reaching a decision on Council reform, he said, emphasizing the need for flexibility to achieve consensus.

The representative of Sierra Leone, speaking on behalf of the member States of the African Union, emphasized Africa’s legitimate aspiration to play its rightful role on the global stage, including through increased presence on the Council based on the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.  The African Group looks forward to building on the gains made during the intergovernmental negotiations, he said, adding that the African Group will join consensus.

The representative of Italy, speaking on behalf of Uniting for Consensus, expressed appreciation for Qatar’s representative to restore a consensual approach through her proposed amendment tabled in her capacity as Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations Group.  Uniting for Consensus has always worked towards working together on such a complex issue.  To overcome the current situation, he said the group is ready to support Qatar’s proposal.

The representative of Turkey said consensus is imperative.  To achieve this, Member States must engage constructively.  Progress in discussions over the last week demonstrate how convergence can be found, he said, adding that Turkey will continue to work with the membership to find convergence on this and other matters.

The representative of Morocco said this process is the appropriate forum to discuss reform, including addressing the historical injustice done to Africa.  Encouraged by the recent progress, he expressed strong support for the Common African Position.

The representative of India reaffirmed that the Intergovernmental Negotiations Group is not just a forum for debate, but a means to advance progress.  Wide-ranging consultations over that last few days have resulted in a suitable solution, he said.  The Co-Chairs’ paper is a useful document to commence discussions in the forthcoming session.  The Intergovernmental Negotiations Group can no longer be used as a smoke screen, and with the new proposal, it can now effectively advance discussions on Council reform.

The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said the negotiations process shows that it is possible to reform the United Nations system.  The united call to instil new life into reform efforts should be a main theme.  The progress and results of the seventy-fifth session must carry forward to further resolve differences.  “We must move forwards, not backwards,” he said, expressing full support for Qatar’s proposal.

The representative of Algeria, aligning himself with the Arab Group and the Committee of Ten, said that, despite challenges surrounding the negotiations process, efforts must focus on achieving the widest convergence possible.  The Common African Position must be considered, he said, reaffirming the relevance of the Intergovernmental Negotiations Group as the forum to discuss Council reform.  It is now time to ensure Africa’s full representation in the Council, he said, expressing appreciation that the issue was included in the Co-Chairs’ paper and voicing support for Qatar’s proposed amendment.

The representative of Pakistan, associating himself with United for Consensus, hoped that Qatar’s proposal could lead to consensus.  Pakistan is happy that the amendments put forward by some delegations were not put to a vote.  Had they been, the results would have been disastrous.  He added that the proceedings of the intergovernmental negotiations have been marred by the aggressive demands of some delegations.  Procedural manoeuvring cannot circumvent the fact that Council reform can only come about through a two-thirds majority vote of Assembly members.  “We hope that we have seen the last of pressure tactics and manoeuvres,” he said.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that Qatar’s proposal has helped the Assembly avoid “radical amendments” that would have deprived the draft oral decision of consensus, which was on the verge of breakdown.  Hopefully, everyone will draw a lesson from what has happened.  What was at stake was not only preserving what has been achieved this year, but in years past, as well, he said, stressing the need to maintaining the current negotiating format.

The representative of Venezuela said the Council is the right forum in which balance can be struck for equitable representation.  Inclusive dialogue based on consensus is the way forward in reaching that goal, he said, expressing hope that future negotiations unfold in this manner.  In this vein, Venezuela supports Qatar’s efforts to find consensus on the way to achieving Security Council reform.

The representative of United Kingdom, expressing support for the Co-Chairs’ efforts, said Qatar’s wise proposal is appreciated.  However, the United Kingdom sympathizes with those who comment that progress is too slow.  The United Kingdom supports Qatar’s proposal to instil new life in the Council reform process.  In addition, his delegation would have supported the Group of Four’s proposal, which would have been a signal that the membership wanted to move forward in the reform process.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed full support for Qatar’s proposal.  Adopting the President of the Assembly’s draft oral decision is a long-standing practice, but putting unacceptable language into the text risks compromising the intergovernmental negotiation process.  He added that the elements paper contains the Co-Chair’s personal observations and thus cannot be the basis for negotiations.

The representative of China said that blocking the adoption of the draft oral decision, and attempting to introduce controversial elements into the text, would give rise to differences and confrontation, undermine the unity of Member States and interfere with the intergovernmental negotiation process.  China supports the proposed amendments to ensure the text’s adoption by consensus, thus ensuring that the intergovernmental negotiations will go ahead on the right track.  Council reform should benefit all Member States and ensure the United Nations long-term development, not serve the interests of a minority of countries.

The representative of Egypt, aligning himself with the African Group and Arab Group, said the efforts shown in the past days to reach consensus reflect the principle of ensuring the widest possible agreement on implementing reform.  All Member States share the common endeavour of a more representative and effective Security Council, he said, adding that it is now time to build on common ground and advance reform efforts.

The representative of Ecuador, associating himself with consensus on the proposed oral decision, said the common call is to breathe new life into Security Council reform.  The key is that progress in reform efforts must make the Council more effective and representative.  Going forward, it will be necessary to avoid any actions that will create divisions, he said.

The representative of Nigeria, associating himself with the African Group and the “L.69” Group of developing countries, said that any effort to weaken the African Common Position on Council reform is worrisome.  It is good to hear delegates stress the importance of consensus, but sometimes justice is more important, he said, adding that delegations should work harder on achieving consensus that is also substantive.

The representative of Sri Lanka congratulated Qatar’s representative for coming up with a “magic formula”.  As the United Nations approaches its seventy‑sixth anniversary, it is time to look at issues of equity, fairness and justice.  Member States must work together with a commitment to multilateralism, dialogue and diplomacy, he said, adding that all countries should be treated as most-favoured nations.  Hopefully, with flexibility and magnanimity, it will be possible to remove the imbalances of yesteryear.

The representative of Tonga, expressing support for the Co-Chairs’ ongoing efforts, said his delegation agrees with rolling over the work of the Intergovernmental Negotiations Group to the next Assembly session.  Building consensus through dialogue must aim at serving the interest of all Member States, including small island developing nations.  As such, he hoped the draft would be adopted by consensus.

The representative of Indonesia said all efforts must be exhausted to reach consensus.  The Intergovernmental Negotiations Group is the correct forum for discussions on reform, however, proposals will not be helpful without a willingness to compromise.  In this regard, he commended Qatar’s proposal, calling for all countries to speak up to enhance dialogue and explore commonalities.  He also called for all country groupings to work constructively to explore uncharted areas in discussions with a broader view to ensuring effective Council reform.

The representative of Central African Republic, associating himself with the African Group, said that the adoption of the draft oral decision by consensus is long-standing practice.  Questioning it could put an end to the intergovernmental negotiation process.  He added that it is unacceptable to make the Co-Chair’s elements paper a basis for future discussions, as it does not reflect the African Union’s position.

The representative of South Africa, associating herself with the Committee of Ten and the “L.69” Group, said that her country’s experience as an elected Council member revealed the need for Africa to have permanent representation in that organ.  Fulfilling the Common African Position requires text-based negotiations, she said, adding that African Heads of State would not have adopted a common position if there was no way to achieve it.  To be fully represented in all United Nations decision-making bodies, especially the Council, remains Africa’s primary goal.  She also warned that delays in addressing the Council’s antiquated makeup is liable to call its legitimacy into question.

The representative of Malaysia said that, to make the Council more effective, reform should expand membership and negotiations should explore various approaches to do so.  Malaysia’s approach to the reform process hinges on focusing on an inclusive process, he said, expressing support for the proposal to instil new life in the reform process.

The representative of France said her delegation supports the proposed amendment, as well as the Group of Four’s proposal.  Calling on all delegations to show a spirit of flexibility, she expressed hope for a successful seventy-sixth session.

The Assembly then adopted the draft oral decision, as orally amended, without a vote.

The representative of Germany, in an explanation of position, said that it was good for the Assembly to have had this debate, which was broadcast live on United Nations Web TV, because it brought discussions on Council reform out of obscurity.  The intergovernmental negotiations should be similarly made public.  The Council’s composition was last changed in the 1960s and its current make-up does not reflect today’s reality.  He disagreed with South Africa’s representative on the need for text-based negotiations and requested, for the seventy-sixth session, that the Common African Position be clearly set out in the elements paper.  He agreed with other speakers that consensus, while good, should not be a goal in itself.  The goal must be Council reform.  He went on to say that it would not have been a disaster to put the oral draft amendment to a vote.

Mr. BOZKIR, recalling that he once worked for a President who said that “sometimes, one year is too short and one day is too long”, said that he learned much about negotiating during his time as Turkey’s envoy to the European Union then as President of the Assembly.  The important thing is to find ways to reach consensus.  He acknowledged that some delegates might have been surprised to see him remain silent during the debate, adding that remarks by one representative were not in line with the Assembly’s democratic tradition.

Oceans and Law of the Sea

The Assembly turned to its agenda item on oceans and the law of the sea, taking up the draft decision “Intergovernmental conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction” (document A/75/L.96).

The representative of Singapore, introducing the draft, said it proposes that, given pandemic-related restrictions, the Assembly decide to postpone the fourth session to 2022 and to request that the Secretary-General provide the necessary support.

Following an oral statement made by the Secretariat, the Assembly then adopted “L.96” without a vote.

Cooperation with Regional Organizations

Finally, the Assembly turned its attention to the draft resolution titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Pacific Island Forum” (document A/75/L.98).  By its terms, the Assembly would welcome progress towards enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum.  It would encourage the Secretary-General to meet with Forum leaders on the margins of the Assembly’s next general debate in September.  It would also acknowledge the severe consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Pacific region and the need for urgent action to address the adverse impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

The representative of Tuvalu introduced the text, saying it takes stock of various developments since the Assembly last adopted a similar resolution two years ago.  Summarizing the text, he noted, among other things, a reference in its preambular section of the Pacific region’s shared stewardship of its natural resources, environment, culture and livelihoods.

The Assembly then adopted “L.98” without a vote.

The representative of Indonesia, in an explanation of position, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to work with the Pacific region on shared common interests, including climate change, disaster risk reduction, agriculture, fisheries and tourism.  He disassociated himself from preambular paragraph 5, citing his delegation’s previously stated reservations on the communiqué of the forty-ninth Pacific Islands Forum.

The representative of the Marshall Islands welcomed the resolution, but recalled that her country’s Parliament decided in March to withdraw from the Pacific Islands Forum.  Some operative paragraphs may therefore not apply to her country.

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