SAYS GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
"This year of celebration must also be a year of strengthening", said General Assembly President Diogo Freitas do Amaral (Portugal) in his closing remarks to a session in which the past was honoured with commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary, while concern for the future was expressed in debate on reform. "I am hopeful that the spirit of the fiftieth anniversary -- that of goodwill, confidence and faith in the future of the United Nations -- will prevail and the opportunity for change is not lost", he said.
During its fiftieth session, the largest ever gathering of world leaders observed the United Nations fiftieth anniversary and pledged to give the twenty-first century a United Nations equipped, financed and structured to serve effectively the peoples in whose name it was established. A special commemorative meeting for the anniversary was addressed by 200 speakers, 91 of them heads of State, over three consecutive days, and culminated on 24 October -- 50 years to the day that the United Nations Charter entered into force.
Opening the special commemorative meeting, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali sounded a practical if disheartening note by calling attention to the Organization's deep financial crisis and offering his analysis of it. "The financial crisis is a symptom of a deeper problem: Member States simply do not regard the United Nations as a priority. This is sad news to report to this commemorative session", he said. He appealed to world leaders to give the United Nations a firm financial base and said that if steps towards that end could not soon be taken, a special session of the Assembly should be convened to deal with the financial crisis.
Reform of the United Nations was the dominant theme throughout the fiftieth session. The Assembly President described the special commemorative meeting as the "first round of work towards reforming the United Nations system" and the majority of participants at the commemorative meeting called for reform, with many advocating an expansion of the membership of the Security Council. The need for greater transparency, democratization and accountability was stressed. Attention was drawn to the obligation of Member States to pay their dues in full and on time. It was also suggested that the current financing regime be restructured and that new and innovative sources of funding be found.
In dealing with the business of the session, the Assembly, on the recommendation of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), adopted a resolution strongly deploring all current nuclear testing and strongly urging the immediate cessation of all such testing. In a related text, it urged all States to support negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear-test ban, calling on the Conference on Disarmament to conclude a treaty as soon as possible in 1996. In the area of conventional weapons, the Assembly decided urgently to consider conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels, and again urged a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel land-mines.
Addressing a condition which has become a priority of development in the 1990s, the Assembly, on the recommendation of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), proclaimed the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006). Echoing concerns expressed exactly a year ago in the aftermath of Mexico's foreign exchange crisis, it adopted for the first time a resolution on the challenges and opportunities of global financial integration. Concern over the decline in financing of development was expressed in several texts adopted on Second Committee recommendations, but a decision on the possible convening of an international conference to discuss that issue was postponed until the Assembly's fifty-second session.
Acting on Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) recommendations, the Assembly condemned the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others in Nigeria, and addressed human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), and Kosovo. It urged that the Government of Myanmar engage in political dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders, as the best means of promoting national reconciliation and the restoration of democracy. It also expressed the hope that the recent violence in Haiti would not impede the consolidation of constitutional democracy in that country.
Acting on the recommendations of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), the Assembly expressed its full support for the ongoing Middle East peace process and urged States to expedite assistance to the Palestinians during this critical time. It called on Israel to completely respect their fundamental freedoms, pending the extension of self-government arrangements to the rest of the West Bank. It also extended the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) until 30 June 1999, provided guidelines for United Nations peace-keeping operations and enlarged the membership of the Committee on Information.
On the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the Assembly approved appropriations of $2.61 billion for the regular budget for the 1996-1997 biennium, more than $20 million less than the spending approved for 1994-1995. The Assembly also waived $94.8 million in unpaid dues from South Africa for the period 30 September 1974 to 23 June 1994, during which time that country's apartheid Government was suspended from participation in the Assembly. Funds were also authorized for peace-keeping operations in Haiti, Lebannon, Western Sahara, Angola, the former Yugolsavia, Rwanda and Liberia, as well as for financing the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia through the first quarter of 1996.
On the recommendation of its Sixth Committee (Legal), the Assembly established a Preparatory Committee to draft a convention for the establishment of an international criminal court which would concentrate on "hard-core" international crimes. The Preparatory Committee will hold two sessions in 1996 to consider major issues arising out of the draft statute of the court, which has been prepared by the International Law Commission. The Assembly also adopted the United Nations Convention on Independent Guarantees and Stand-by Letters of Credit, commended the completion of the final text of the Model Rules for the Conciliation of Disputes Between States, and expressed its intention to initiate procedures to delete the "enemy State" clauses from the United Nations Charter.
In addition to its President, the Assembly has the following 21 Vice-Presidents: Albania, Algeria, Belgium, Bolivia, China, Congo, Costa Rica, France, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and Yemen.
Following are summaries of Plenary and Committee actions.
The fiftieth anniversary was an especially appropriate time to reform the United Nations, Assembly President Freitas do Amaral (Portugal) said as he opened the Assembly's fiftieth session.
World leaders who gathered at the special commemorative meeting to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Organization pledged to give to the twenty-first century a United Nations equipped, financed and structured to serve effectively the peoples in whose names it was established. Member States and observers adopted a "Declaration on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations" which focused on peace, development, equality, justice and the work of the United Nations.
The 91 heads of State, eight vice-presidents, one crown prince, 37 Prime Ministers, 10 deputy prime ministers, 21 foreign ministers, nine chairmen of delegations and 23 observers called for a revitalization of the General Assembly, an expansion of the Security Council and the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council. They stressed that Member States should meet, in full and on time, their obligation to bear the expenses of the Organization.
The world leaders also pledged themselves to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes, reaffirmed the right to self-determination of all peoples, called for extraordinary measures by all countries to confront extreme poverty, reiterated the equal rights of men and women and reaffirmed that all human rights were universal and indivisible.
In remarks made at the close of the three-day special commemorative meeting, which began on 22 October, the Secretary-General said the largest ever gathering of world leaders had expressed confidence in the future of the United Nations. They had given the world an "agenda for tomorrow" covering every aspect of human society. The dialogue of nations sought by the founding fathers of the world Organization had taken place in friendship and fraternity, and the "spirit of San Francisco" should guide the international community during the next 50 years, he said. The President of the General Assembly said the need for bold reform was recognized at the commemorative meeting and work on strengthening the United Nations had begun. In particular, the urgent financial crisis had to be faced.
Prior to the commemorative meeting, in a special address to the General Assembly on 5 October, His Holiness Pope John Paul II called for a common effort to "build a civilization of love based on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty", to answer the fear that darkened human existence at the close of the twentieth century. The United Nations had to rise above the cold status of an administrative institution to become a "moral centre" where all the countries of the world felt a shared awareness of being a family of nations, he said.
The Assembly addressed an expanded agenda covering a wide range of political, disarmament, economic, social and humanitarian matters, as well as legal, administrative and budgetary questions.
In a debate on reform of the Security Council, a number of speakers called for more equitable geographical representation and an increase in Security Council membership. The alteration of membership categories and the veto power were also reviewed, with some speakers calling for termination of the veto power. Many speakers supported permanent Council membership for Japan and Germany. The Assembly elected Chile, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Poland and the Republic of Korea to two-year terms on the Security Council, filling non-permanent seats to be vacated on 31 December by Argentina, Czech Republic, Nigeria, Oman and Rwanda.
In discussion on the restructuring of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields, concern was expressed about the declining levels of funding for United Nations operational activities for development. The need for greater interaction between the Bretton Woods institutions -- the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- and the United Nations was also stressed.
The following 18 States were elected by the Assembly to fill vacancies in the 54-member Economic and Social Council: Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, Central African Republic, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Gabon, Guyana, Jordan, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Romania, Russian Federation, Sweden, Togo, Tunisia and the United Kingdom. The new members will serve three-year terms beginning on 1 January 1996.
Citing unique and exceptional circumstances, the General Assembly declared South Africa's unpaid assessments accruing during the period from 30 September 1974 to 23 June 1994 for the regular budget and for peace-keeping operations no longer due and payable. South Africa was suspended from participation in the work of the Assembly during that period. The action was taken in light of South Africa's elimination of apartheid and establishment of a non-racial democracy, which had enabled it to resume participation in the Assembly's work.
Examining the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, the Assembly welcomed the peace process started at Madrid in 1991 and expressed support for the subsequent bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Stressing the need for rapid progress on the other tracks of the Arab-Israeli negotiations -- with Syria and Jordan -- it demanded Israel's withdrawal from all the occupied Golan and said that country's decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and Assembly administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem was illegal and invalid. Furthermore, the Assembly called on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
The Assembly observed a moment of silence in tribute to Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, who was assassinated on 4 November. Speakers called him a man who had dedicated his life to his country and the cause of peace and hoped that the assassination would not lead to setbacks in the Middle East peace process.
The Assembly did not hold a separate debate on the rapidly changing events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but representatives took other opportunities to address the issue, with many expressing hope for peace in light of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina signed in Paris. The Assembly welcomed the important role assigned to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the Agreement and acknowledged that organization's role in the implementation of the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium. It also requested the Secretary-General to increase the opportunity for countries affected by the Security Council sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) to participate actively in the post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation of the crisis-stricken areas of the former Yugoslavia.
Regarding the United States economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, the Assembly reiterated its call to all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws that affect the sovereignty of other States, as well as the freedom of trade and navigation.
The issue of multilingualism was also discussed extensively, and the Assembly asked the Secretary-General to ensure that personnel recruited by the Organization would have command of at least one of the United Nations working languages or -- in the case of staff members who were going to work for another body of the Organization for two years or less -- the personnel should have command of one of the working languages of that other body.
Among other measures, the Assembly urged the international community to provide assistance to mine-afflicted countries and to promote scientific research and development on humanitarian mine-clearance techniques. It also took steps to strengthen the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations by adopting resolutions on assistance to Afghanistan, Liberia, Central America, El Salvador, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Madagascar, the Palestinian people, and States affected by the Chernobyl disaster. The Assembly also extended the mandate of the Mission of the United Nations in El Salvador (MINUSAL) until 30 April 1996, with a gradual reduction of its strength and cost in a manner compatible with the efficient performance of its functions.
Developments relating to the Law of the Sea were also discussed by the Assembly, following the opening for signature of the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, which for the first time would bind States to conserve and sustainably manage high-seas fisheries and to settle fishing disputes peacefully. The Assembly emphasized the importance of the early entry into force and effective implementation of that Agreement.
During discussion of Law of the Sea issues, as well as during the general debate, several Member States voiced their opposition to the nuclear-weapon tests that had been carried out since the Review and Extension Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Pacific and other States expressed outrage over the French nuclear tests in their region. France replied that its series of nuclear tests, which would end before May 1996, would enable it to be the most demanding advocate of a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests.
The Assembly also commemorated the anniversary of the end of the Second World War; commemorated the tenth anniversary of the International Youth Year and adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth to the year 2000 and Beyond; marked the United Nations Year of Tolerance; endorsed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women held from 4 to 15 September 1995; and decided to hold a special session of the Assembly in the year 2000 to review implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development. In addition, the Central American Integration System was invited by the Assembly to participate in the Assembly's work as an observer.
Issues of nuclear disarmament in general and testing in particular highlighted the actions taken by the General Assembly on the recommendation of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security). In one resolution, the Assembly strongly deplored all current nuclear testing and strongly urged the immediate cessation of all such testing. The text, adopted by a vote of 85 in favour to 18 against, with 43 abstentions, was one of 46 resolutions and three decisions adopted by the Assembly on nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms, regional disarmament and international security.
In the Committee's debate, several speakers denounced the resumption of nuclear weapons testing by France and China. The representative of Marshall Islands, speaking before the vote in the Committee, said that "any one single nuclear-weapon test anywhere is one test too many". The representative of France, however, called the text adopted by the Assembly "unfounded, unfair, pernicious and useless", adding that his country would work for the signing of a comprehensive test-ban treaty in 1996. The Committee Chairman, Luvsangiin Erdenechuluun (Mongolia), said debates on nuclear issues had evoked a "great emotional outcry", and he could hardly remember a time when the emotional temperature of the Committee had reached such heights.
In a resolution that enjoyed broad support, the Assembly urged all States to support negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear test ban, and called on the Conference on Disarmament to conclude a treaty as soon as possible in 1996. The Assembly also called for urgent implementation of the decision by the Conference on Disarmament to expand its membership by the start of the 1996 session.
Acting on another draft on nuclear disarmament, the Assembly urged nuclear-weapon States to stop immediately the qualitative improvement, development, stockpiling and production of nuclear warheads and delivery systems -- and to undertake a phased programme of deep reductions of nuclear weapons, aimed at their total elimination within a time-bound framework. By the terms of another text, the Assembly urged States not parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to accede to it at the earliest possible date.
The Assembly also sought urgent steps to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, and called on all States of the region to place their nuclear activities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. By the terms of another text, the Assembly called on Israel and all other States in the region not yet party to the NPT, "not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and to accede to the Treaty at the earliest date". Resolutions supporting nuclear-weapon-free zones in South Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean were also adopted, and the Assembly invited African States to sign and ratify the Treaty on an African nuclear-weapon-free zone.
Under another text on nuclear issues, the Assembly appealed to all States to work towards security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States, including the conclusion of a legally binding international instrument. In another action, the Assembly encouraged the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakstan and Ukraine to continue their cooperative efforts aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons. The Russian Federation and the United States were encouraged to resume bilateral negotiations on preventing an arms race in outer space.
Expressing the views of the Secretary-General to the Committee at the start of its general debate, Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Marrack Goulding had drawn attention to the damage caused by light weapons -- which contributed to the destabilization of States and the destruction of their societies. The Secretary-General therefore attached much importance to the process of micro-disarmament -- measures aimed at dealing with specific, pragmatic and achievable goals in the area of conventional weapons.
To that end, the Assembly decided urgently to consider conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels. In a related vote, the Secretary-General was asked to report on the types of small arms and light weapons being used in conflicts. Another text encouraged him to continue his efforts to curb the illicit circulation of small arms. The Register of Conventional Arms would be strengthened by a call to States to report on their arms imports and exports. By the terms of another text, States were invited to take enforcement measures to ensure the immediate discontinuance of illicit arms transfers.
Of particular concern to the Committee in the area of conventional weapons was the global problem of land-mines. Without a vote, the Assembly urged a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel land-mines, referred to in committee as slow-motion weapons of mass destruction. The representative of China commented that while he sought a balanced approach to the problem of land-mines, their prohibition might not serve the legitimate rights of defence of all countries, especially developing ones.
After much debate on the question, the Assembly decided to convene a fourth special session on disarmament, to be held in 1997 if possible. Citing an estimated cost of $20 million for the convening of such a session, the representative of the United States said the time was not right for such a meeting.
In a new action, the Assembly asked the Conference on Disarmament to include environmental norms in disarmament and arms control agreements. The representative of the United States, one of four countries opposing the action -- along with France, Israel and the United Kingdom -- said it could divert attention away from productive work and refocus efforts on vague environmental norms. His country already had stringent environmental regulations pertaining to disarmament, he said.
In closing remarks to the First Committee, the Chairman said disarmament continued to play a unique role aimed at dismantling the material basis for war. It required a new flexibility and a multi-faceted approach. Full and grand debates on important issues of disarmament and security had paved the way for progress. It had not been an ordinary session. Some small contribution to the realization of hopes for a better and more peaceful world had been made, he said.
The officers of the First Committee are: Chairman, Luvsangiin Erdenechuluun (Mongolia); Vice-Chairmen, Antonio de Icaza (Mexico) and Wolfgang Hoffmann (Germany); and Rapporteur, Rajab Sukayri (Jordan).
On the recommendation of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the Assembly adopted for the first time a resolution on the challenges and opportunities of global financial integration -- a text which echoed concerns expressed exactly a year ago by financial analysts and political leaders about the risks of volatility in international financial markets, in the aftermath of Mexico's foreign exchange crisis. The resolution stated the need for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to play a stronger role "in surveillance of all countries" concerning potential sources of destabilization of capital markets.
The perils and promises of globalization were addressed in several texts discussed and eventually approved by the Committee, including the resolution by which the Assembly decided to convene the ninth session of UNCTAD (UNCTAD IX) in Midrand, Gauteng Province, South Africa, from 27 April to 11 May 1996, under the unifying theme of "Promoting growth and sustainable development in a globalizing and liberalizing world economy".
In another resolution, its third in three years on the renewal of the development dialogue through partnership, the Assembly agreed to hold a two-day high-level dialogue at its fifty-first session on the "social and economic impact of globalization and interdependence and their policy implications". The date and focus of the discussion will be decided on in the context of the ad hoc open-ended working group on An Agenda for Development.
A warning about the risks of volatility in capital markets was also included in a resolution calling for a development-oriented and durable solution to the external debt problem of developing countries, which, for the second consecutive year, was adopted without a vote. Addressing the high proportion of multilateral debt of a number of developing countries, the Assembly invited international financial institutions to examine proposals to tackle that problem, while preserving their preferred creditor status, so they could continue to provide concessional financing to developing countries.
The decline in financing of development was another concern expressed in several texts approved by the Second Committee. The Assembly deferred to its fifty-second session, however, a discussion on the possible convening of an international conference on the matter -- which was first proposed in 1991.
In the resolution on the triennial policy review of United Nations operational activities for development, the Assembly noted with regret that despite the restructuring exercise in the economic and social fields, there has not been any substantial increase in resources for those activities on a predictable, continuous and assured basis, nor have the consultations on prospective new procedures for financing reached a conclusion. It was strongly reaffirmed that the impact of those activities must be enhanced by a substantial increase in their funding in line with the increasing needs of developing countries.
Addressing a condition which has become a development priority in the 1990s, the Assembly proclaimed the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006), after having declared 17 October the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and 1996 the International Year for that purpose. In the United Nations context the theme of the Year, as proposed by the Secretary-General, is "Poverty can be and must be eradicated throughout the world".
The proclamation of the Poverty Eradication Decade, following up on a recommendation by the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development, was among decisions by the Committee which reflected consensus language of recent United Nations development-related conferences. That was particularly the case in a series of environment-and-development resolutions, including the decision to convene a one-week special session, in June 1997, to review the implementation of Agenda 21, the action programme adopted by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Action on those issues, for the most part, focused on reaffirming commitments or on administrative and procedural matters.
In several texts, the Assembly took note of decisions by the first sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Nassau, Bahamas, December 1994) and to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Berlin, April) concerning the location of their respective secretariats -- Biological Diversity in Canada and Climate Change in Germany. It was also decided that the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee which elaborated the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification should continue to prepare for the first session of the Conference of the parties to that Convention. The Secretary-General was requested to ensure provisions for the development of a vulnerability index for small island developing States.
Action relating to upcoming conferences was also mainly of a procedural nature, such as the decision that the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) (Istanbul, 3 to 14 June 1996) would be held at Headquarters from 5 to 16 February.
Faithful to its tradition, the Committee sought consensus on all drafts introduced. Of 42 proposals approved, only two were acted upon by recorded votes: one on Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory; the other on economic coercive measures against developing countries, texts which have always been approved by vote.
The officers of the Second Committee are: Chairman, Goce Petreski (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Vice-Chairmen, Conor Murphy (Ireland) and Max Stadthagen (Nicaragua); and Rapporteur, Basheer Zoubi (Jordan).
Human rights were the focus of recommendations from the Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). The broad mandate of the Committee also produced proposals on such issues as the rights of children, refugees, the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, the advancement of women, international drug control, and criminal justice.
The Assembly adopted 34 resolutions on human rights matters, a number of them concerning specific countries, including a new text on Nigeria, which was adopted by a vote of 101 in favour to 14 against, with 47 abstentions. The Assembly condemned Nigeria's arbitrary execution, after a flawed judicial process, of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others on 10 November. States opposing the draft -- most of them African -- and many of those abstaining said that the resolution crossed the line between concern for human rights and interference in a State's internal affairs. Responding to the text's adoption, the representative of Nigeria said the nine Nigerians had been executed after due process had been observed and in accordance with his country's Constitution.
The Assembly also adopted, without a vote, resolutions on Afghanistan, Myanmar, Haiti and Rwanda, as well as on the rape and abuse of women in the former Yugoslavia. Recorded votes were required on: the situation of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro); Kosovo; Cuba; Iraq and the Sudan.
During Committee discussions on the human rights drafts, many States of the South complained of selectivity and a lack of objectivity on the part of States of the North when dealing with human rights issues. The Committee Chairman, Ugyen Tshering (Bhutan), said that the country specific reports and resolutions were seen as an important mechanism, but that problems arose due to issues of national sovereignty. Noting that some rapporteurs had difficulty in gaining access to countries, and in some cases faced open hostility, the Chairman personally appealed for more cooperation to allow the rapporteurs to do their work in safety.
As in previous years, special rapporteurs and special representatives of the Commission on Human Rights reported to the Committee on such issues as racism and racial discrimination; religious intolerance; the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and situations prevailing in specific countries.
In his second report to the Third Committee since the establishment of his mandate, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jose Ayala Lasso, indicated that personal and direct contact with governments was essential in order to gain trust and ensure their support. He expressed hope for the creation of national mechanisms that could make it easy to correct and punish human rights abuses.
In his presentation to the Committee, the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance stated that religious extremism, which was growing worldwide, could threaten peace and international security and, thus, greatly affect human rights. The Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography told the Committee that modern technology had lent a degree of sophistication that never before existed in the manner of recruitment, solicitation and advertisement regarding children in prostitution and pornography. She called for improvement of the justice system in punishing adult wrongdoers and for aggressive and innovative solutions to the problem.
In dealing with the advancement of women, the Assembly failed to decide on the merits of the proposed merger of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). At the recommendation of the Committee, the Assembly adopted a resolution which regretted that, owing to the absence of sufficient information on the legal, technical and administrative implications of the proposed merger, it was currently unable to make a decision.
Concerning the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing in September, the Assembly adopted a resolution stressing that governments have the primary responsibility for implementing the Platform for Action adopted at the Conference. Also, the "Group of 77" developing countries and China requested the Secretary-General to submit no later than March 1996 a report with a detailed plan on the resources required to implement the Platform for Action. The Secretary-General of the Beijing Conference, Gertrude Mongella, addressed the Committee and emphasized that, with the momentum created by the Conference, there was no excuse for postponement or delay of actions to improve the situation of women.
A resolution adopted by the Assembly on self-determination urged all States to exercise the utmost vigilance against the menace posed by the activities of mercenaries and to take legislative measure against those activities. Special attention was given to the matter during the Committee's discussions in light of the recent overthrow of the Government of the Comoros. The debate emphasized that mercenaries undermined the security of small States and impeded people's right to self-determination.
As in past years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sadako Ogata, also addressed the Committee. She expressed concern over the decline in the willingness of States to grant asylum, even on a temporary basis. Some States, she said, were even introducing laws and procedures which denied admission to their territories. The Assembly, without a vote, adopted a resolution which called upon States to adopt national legislation with a view to reducing statelessness.
The officers of the Third Committee are: Chairman, Ugyen Tshering (Bhutan); Vice Chairmen, Julia Tavares de Alvarez (Dominican Republic) and Patrick Rata (New Zealand); and Rapporteur, Ahmen Yousif Mohamed (Sudan).
The Assembly acted on a wide range of issues affecting the human rights as well as the political and economic conditions of Palestinians and other Arabs in the occupied territories following the recommendation of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization). The Assembly also addressed the contributions made by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the Middle East peace process.
According to Committee Chairman Francis Muthaura (Kenya), there had been a broad consensus in the Committee on UNRWA's usefulness, as well as the need to provide it with adequate resources and reorient its mandate to reflect current political changes in the Middle East. Acting on the Committee's recommendation, the Assembly extended UNRWA's mandate until 30 June 1999, but stated that its structural deficit problem portends "an almost certain decline in the living conditions of Palestine refugees" with possible consequences for the peace process. Governments were called on, as a matter of urgency, to contribute generously to meet UNRWA's anticipated needs, including the costs of moving its headquarters to Gaza.
The Assembly called on UNRWA to continue contributing towards economic and social stability in the occupied territory. It also called on Israel to respect the safety of the Agency's personnel and facilities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. In addition, it asked UNRWA's Commissioner-General to issue identification cards for Palestine refugees and their descendants there.
In adopting the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, the Assembly urged Member States to expedite economic and technical assistance to the Palestinians during the current critical time. It called on Israel to completely respect their fundamental freedoms, pending the extension of self-government arrangements to the rest of the West Bank. Furthermore, the Assembly expressed the hope that, in light of recent positive political developments, Israeli practices and policies which violated the human rights of Palestinians and other Arabs in the occupied territories would end immediately. It also reaffirmed that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were illegal and an obstacle to peace.
In other action taken on proposals by the Committee, the Assembly provided guidelines for peace-keeping operations and for United Nations public information policies and activities, and also addressed questions on decolonization, the peaceful uses of outer space and the effects of atomic radiation.
Regarding United Nations peace-keeping operations, the Assembly emphasized that their mandates should be clear, of limited duration, and based on the notion that the Organization had been successful in preventive Assembly diplomacy and in peace-building, rather than in peace enforcement efforts. It also endorsed proposals by the Special Committee on Peace-keeping Operations on the completion of a code of conduct for peace-keepers, further progress on stand-by arrangements, and the development of a rapidly deployable Headquarters team of personnel skilled in essential military and civilian missions. The Special Committee was also asked to consider expanding its membership.
On the subject of United Nations public information policies and activities, the Assembly asked the Secretary-General to ensure the involvement of the Department of Public Information (DPI) at the planning stage of future peace-keeping and other field missions. It also decided to consolidate the role of the Committee on Information as the main body mandated to make recommendations relating to DPI's work.
Among its specific mandates, the Assembly asked the Secretary-General to continue integrating United Nations information centres with field offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) whenever feasible, on a case-by-case basis, ensuring that the information functions and autonomy of the centres were not adversely affected. It urged States and organizations to cooperate in reducing disparities in information flows by increasing assistance for communications infrastructures in developing countries. The Assembly condemned attacks against journalists and stated that they should be allowed to perform their professional tasks effectively.
On decolonization matters, the Assembly adopted 11 resolutions covering such questions as the activities of foreign economic and other interests, military activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories, the role of the United Nations specialized agencies, and information provided by administering Powers. It also addressed the situations in Western Sahara, New Caledonia and Gibraltar, as well as offers by Member States of study facilities for inhabitants of Territories.
On Western Sahara, the Assembly called on the parties to implement the Security Council approved Settlement Plan. It noted that insufficient progress had been made towards the fulfilment of the Settlement Plan, including the identification process, the code of conduct, the release of political prisoners, the confinement of troops of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro and the arrangements for the reduction of the Moroccan troops in the territory.
The Assembly also dealt with specific and general conditions in 12 Non-Self-Governing Territories -- American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.
Regarding the peaceful uses of outer space, the Assembly urged all States, particularly those with major space capabilities, to prevent an arms race in outer space and to contribute to an orderly growth of space activities favourable to the socio-economic advancement of humanity, particularly for people in developing countries. It also endorsed recommendations that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space should address problems of space debris, the concentration of satellites in the geostationary orbit, the transfer of technology and the sharing of information between States.
The Assembly asked the Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation to continue its work to increase knowledge of the levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation from all sources, and requested the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to continue providing support for the Scientific Committee's work.
The officers of the Fourth Committee are: Chairman, Francis Muthaura (Kenya); Vice-Chairmen, Niall Holohan (Ireland) and Jalal Samadi (Iran); and Rapporteur, Allan Breier-Castro (Venezuela).
On the recommendation of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the Assembly approved appropriations of $2.61 billion for the 1996-1997 regular budget, more than $20 million less than the spending approved for 1994-1995. It also estimated income of $471.4 million for the same period.
The Assembly also established a $100 million level for the Working Capital Fund and set 1996 appropriations at $1.3 billion of which $1.29 billion will be assessed on Member States. The Assembly noted that a balance of $19.4 million remained in the contingency fund.
For the first time ever, the Assembly waived a United Nations Member State's unpaid dues. As recommended by the Committee, the Assembly wrote off South Africa's unpaid dues of $94.8 million from the period 30 September 1974 to 23 June 1994, during which time that country's apartheid Government was suspended from participation in the Assembly. At the Committee's recommendation, Member States absorbed the debt by waiving their right to receive $94.8 million in credits available to them from previous United Nations regular and peace-keeping budgets. Another option would have been to clear the debt by assessing that amount among Member States.
The Assembly also appropriated funds or authorized the Secretary-General to commit funds to finance the following peace-keeping operations:
-- for the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), $152 million gross ($149.7 million net) for the period 1 August to 29 February 1996, and beyond that to $10 million gross ($9.5 million net) monthly from 1 March to 31 May 1996, should the Security Council extend its mandate beyond February;
-- for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), approximately $121.3 million, comprising an appropriation of some $67.4 million gross ($65.2 million net) for 1 August 1995 to 31 January 1996 and a commitment authority of up to some $10.8 million gross ($10.5 million net) monthly for 1 February to 30 June 1996, should the Council extend its mandate beyond 31 January 1996;
-- for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), some $22.4 million gross ($20.4 million net) previously authorized and assessed for the period 1 October 1995 to 31 January 1996;
-- for the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III), $204.9 million gross for the periods from 9 February 1995 to 31 March 1996;
-- for the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), the United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia (UNCRO), the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) and the United Nations Peace Forces Headquarters in the former Yugoslavia, commitment authority of $100 million gross ($98.4 million net) for the period 1 January to 31 March 1996;
-- for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), $32.3 million gross ($31.8 million net) for the period 1 January to 8 March 1996; and
-- for United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL), $21.9 million gross for the first quarter of 1996.
In other action, the Assembly approved for the first quarter of 1996 appropriations of $8.6 million gross for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and $7.6 million gross for the International Tribunal for Rwanda. The Assembly also approved the Committee's recommendation that Palau, which was admitted to the United Nations in December 1994, be assessed at 0.01 per cent of the regular budget for 1995, 1996 and 1997 and be placed in group (d) in the composition of Member States for apportioning of peace-keeping dues (United Nations membership is divided into four groups for apportioning peace-keeping expenses and those in group (d) are specifically named economically less developed Member States that will be apportioned 10 per cent of their regular budget assessment rates). The Assembly also amended some financial regulations so that the financial periods for peace-keeping will begin on 1 July and end on 30 June.
By a four-part draft resolution recommended by the Committee on the common system, the Assembly requested the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) to establish in 1996 a single post-adjustment index for staff at Geneva that represented the cost of living of all staff working there, and requested the Commission and the executive heads of the United Nations common system to ensure adequate attention to improving non-monetary aspects of conditions of service.
The Assembly, upon the Committee's recommendation, also appointed members to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), the Committee on Contributions, the Board of Auditors, the Investments Committee and the United Nations Administrative Tribunal.
The officer of the Fifth Committee are: Chairman, Erich Vilchez Asher (Nicaragua); Vice Chairmen, Ammar Amari (Tunisia) and Movses Abelian (Armenia); and Rapporteur, Peter Maddens (Belgium).
Through its Sixth Committee (Legal) this year, the Assembly dealt with, among other issues, the creation of an international criminal court, deletion of "enemy State" clauses from the Charter, a Convention on credit instruments, measures to eliminate international terrorism, revision of the internal legal system of the Secretariat.
Creation of an international criminal court has been under discussion for a number of years. Following Committee debate in which some 90 speakers took part, the Assembly this year established a Preparatory Committee for such a court, mandated to draft a convention for adoption by a conference of plenipotentiaries. The Preparatory Committee will hold two sessions in 1996 to consider major issues arising out of the draft statute of the court, which has been prepared by the International Law Commission. Italy has offered to host the signing conference in 1997.
According to its draft statute, the court is envisaged as a permanent independent judicial body, working on an "as-needed" basis, with competence over "hard-core" crimes, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Not intended to replace national courts, it is supposed to complement them.
Another issue of special interest this year was the question of "enemy State" clauses. Considered obsolete by most States, they are contained in Articles 53, 77 and 107 of the Charter and refer to any State which during the Second World War was "an enemy of any signatory to the present Charter". By the terms of one of three resolutions adopted on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization, the Assembly expressed its intention to initiate procedures deleting the "enemy State" clauses from the Charter at its earliest future session. The Assembly approved the draft on the "enemy State" clauses by a vote of 155 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Libya), the only resolution recommended by the Sixth Committee that required a vote.
The Assembly also adopted the United Nations Convention on Independent Guarantees and Stand-by Letters of Credit and opened it for signature or accession. The instrument is part of efforts directed towards harmonization and unification of international trade law by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), which negotiated the text for some six years.
By one of its resolutions on the work of UNCITRAL, the Assembly recognized the uncertainty and lack of uniformity prevailing in the field of independent guarantees and stand-by letters of credit and expressed its conviction that the Convention would facilitate the use of such instruments. The Convention can be applied in developed and developing countries. By covering both types of instruments under a single umbrella of provisions and
by establishing neutral terminology that can be understood across all legal cultures, the Convention is designed to facilitate the widespread and effective use of the instruments which are considered vital to the future of international trade.
Regarding the issue of the implementation of Charter provisions on assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions, the Assembly decided that the Secretary-General, at the request of the Security Council, would analyse the effects of sanctions regimes on third States and advise the Council on possible adjustments that may mitigate their adverse effects.
Also within the framework of the reform and strengthening of the Organization, the Assembly decided that membership in the Special Committee on the Charter should be open to all Member States and that it should continue to operate on the basis of consensus. By the terms of another resolution on the work of the Charter Committee, the Assembly commended the completion of the final text of the Model Rules for the Conciliation of Disputes between States, originally proposed by Guatemala.
The Assembly urged the host country to consider lifting travel controls on certain diplomatic missions and Secretariat staff members of certain nationalities, as it adopted a resolution on relations with the host country. That text deals with the problems of security of diplomatic missions and their personnel, host country travel regulations, financial indebtedness of permanent missions and the use of motor vehicles.
Further progress was made towards the conclusion of work on several important draft texts. The Assembly urged the International Law Commission to complete its second reading of the draft code of crimes against the peace and security of mankind and the first reading of the draft articles on State responsibility during next year's session. The Commission was also urged to complete its first reading of the draft articles on activities that risked causing transboundary harm within the framework of the topic "International liability for injurious consequences arising out of acts not prohibited by international law".
Another question on the agenda of the Committee this year was the review of the role of the Trusteeship Council, which, according to some countries, had fulfilled its mandate. The Assembly requested the Secretary-General to invite Member States to submit their written comments on the future of the Council and to report to it before the end of its fiftieth session.
As a follow-up to last year's Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, the Assembly adopted a draft urging States to promote the Declaration, strengthen their cooperation, implement their obligations under existing international conventions and fully observe international law.
Having considered the closely related topics of the Decade of International Law (1990-1999) and the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, the Assembly authorized continuation of efforts to promote respect for the principles of international law and encourage its progressive development and codification. The Assembly also recognized the successful organization of this year's Congress on Public International Law, which was held in April at Headquarters.
Within its overall review of the internal legal system of the United Nations, the Assembly decided to delete article 11 from the statute of the Administrative Tribunal of the United Nations, while continuing to apply any judgements made by the Tribunal prior to 1 January 1996. The article provides for review of Tribunal judgements by the Committee on Applications for Review, which was created and empowered to request advisory opinions of the International Court of Justice. During discussions in the Committee, it was argued that the present review procedure had not proven to be a constructive and useful element of the appeal system within the Secretariat.
The officers of the Sixth Committee are: Chairman, Tyge Lehmann (Denmark); Vice-Chairmen, Abdelouahab Bellouki (Morocco) and Guillermo Camacho (Ecuador); and Rapporteur, Walid Obeidat (Jordan).