General Assembly: 80th plenary meeting, 76th session
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 Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the political declarations on HIV/AIDS - Item 11: report of the Secretary-General (A/76/783)

Delegates Also Elect Five Non-Permanent Council Members, Review Progress in Implementing Political Declarations on HIV/AIDS

Delegates in the General Assembly today pressed the Security Council to deliver an annual report that moves beyond a simple compilation of activities and scrutinizes its urgent and critical work to uphold global peace and security, as they reviewed the Council’s 2021 activities after electing five non-permanent members to the 15-member body.

Opening the discussion, Assembly President Abdulla Shahid (Maldives) said it is crucial to hold the Council accountable for its actions or lack of them, noting that the United Nations has a responsibility to its 8 billion constituents.  He welcomed the Assembly’s meeting on Wednesday, which resulted from the recently established standing mandate for an Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Council by a permanent member.  Calling it revolutionary, he added it is in the international community’s common interest to encourage such collaboration.

Ferit Hoxha (Albania), Security Council President for June, introducing the body’s report, said its deliberations in 2021 focused on peace and security in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.  It remained fully mobilized despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for the second year in a row its annual report was adopted no later than 30 May, a response to the wider membership’s demands to facilitate discussion in the Assembly. 

Ecuador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, welcomed the report’s valuable overview of the Council’s work, yet encouraged a more analytical account.  This would include additional details on the draft resolutions that were not adopted, the grounds of the rejection and the use of the veto.  He also wanted information on the Council’s main deliberations during closed sessions to provide more transparency.

Likewise, many delegates, while welcoming the timely adoption of the report, were dissatisfied that it was a simple list of activities and resolutions and did not provide enough analysis of the Council’s work.  

The speaker for Liechtenstein said the document had little information about actions taken to address and reverse the trends of increasing international humanitarian law violations and failures to protect civilians.  “In various crisis situations the Council has fallen short of its Charter mandate,” he said, citing the decision to restrict cross-border humanitarian aid delivery in Syria, the situations in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and the inability to pass any text addressing the aggression against Ukraine as notable examples.  He also praised the Assembly’s recent adoption of resolution 76/262 — known as the “Veto Initiative” — which means that a permanent member of the Council “will now no longer have the last word”, and expressed his hope that it will lead to fewer vetoes in the future.

Noting that the Council’s annual reports are a critical transparency tool, Iran’s representative said that by only providing a descriptive account of its meetings and communications, the Council had prevented the Assembly from comprehensively assessing its performance.  Stressing that some countries use thematic issues to interfere in the internal matters of other States, he called on the Council to “stick to its mandate”.  The 15-member body has failed to discharge its responsibilities, including in the case of Palestine, where the Israeli regime commits atrocities with the full knowledge of the Council and no accountability.

On that point, South Africa’s delegate said the Council was not able to move ahead on important matters such as the question of Palestine because of its inability to act with one voice.  Reform is urgent and the Council must become accountable to the Assembly on long-standing issues such as these, he said, also calling for greater cooperation with the African Union.

Costa Rica’s representative, noting that transparency and accountability are more urgent than ever, stressed the need to effectively codify the Council’s best practices and lessons learned in the current crisis.  The paucity of substantive content in the report precludes the possibility of a robust debate on the Council’s internal workings.  “This is of little use,” he said, noting the lack of voting results, disagreements or the vetoes that may have occurred during the reporting period.  Calling for a more reflective annual report, he said the current one does not explain in detail the obstacles that precede the Council’s inaction on some issues.  The international community is kept in the dark as the body continues to hold closed-door meetings, which should only occur in exceptional circumstances.  He also questioned why Council members are not present throughout the Assembly’s debate on their report, adding:  “We seem to be involved in a dialogue with the dead.”

Prior to the discussion on the Council’s annual report, in one round of voting during the morning session, the Assembly elected five non-permanent Council members to replace members whose terms expire on 31 December 2022.  They included Switzerland and Malta, for the two seats open for Western European and other States; Mozambique and Japan to the two seats in the category of African and Asia-Pacific States; and Ecuador to the single seat open for the Latin American and Caribbean States.  The two-year terms will end on 1 January 2023.

In the afternoon, the Assembly turned its attention to a critical global health-care issue as it reviewed the progress made in implementing its 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2021 Political Declaration on ending AIDS by 2030.  The Assembly President, opening the discussion, said that since the first reported case in 1981, 79 million people have contracted the disease and 36 million people have died.  The virus continues to take 13,000 lives every week and millions of people have been lost or impacted by the crisis over the last four decades. 

Courtenay Rattray (Jamaica), Chef de Cabinet of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, delivering a statement on his behalf, said the long-running HIV pandemic takes one life every minute and “remains the deadliest pandemic of our times”.  The war in Ukraine side-tracked progress towards tackling the disease, already off-track when the COVID-19 pandemic began, further afield.  “It is both encouraging and frustrating that we know what works,” he said, emphasizing that the international community can end AIDS if it works together to tackle inequalities.

Many delegates stressed the need to ramp up collective and national efforts to eliminate HIV/AIDS by the decade’s end in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being).

The speaker for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the HIV pandemic can seem like a forgotten issue against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.  Yet it is far from resolved, and the Secretary-General’s report notes that if the international community fails to act on HIV, it will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal target 3.3 on ending epidemics — including AIDS — by 2030. 

The representative of Barbados, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that while global AIDS-related deaths and HIV infections have fallen over the last 20 years, they have not decreased at the rate necessary to end the scourge by 2030.  He noted that the Caribbean region, along with sub-Saharan Africa, has had the strongest reductions in transmission since 2010 — the result of indigenous policies and approaches consistent with the region’s political, legal, social and cultural environment.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Portugal, Austria, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Poland, Malta, Cuba, Argentina, Georgia, Indonesia, Italy, Slovenia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Panama (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Namibia (speaking for the African Group), Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Liberia, Cuba, Zambia, Canada, Kenya, India, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, Angola, Brazil, United States, Colombia, Sierra Leone, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 10 June to conclude its debate on implementing the Declaration of Commitment and Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, as well as to elect members of the Economic and Social Council and consider its agenda item on multilingualism.