The General Assembly today adopted its work programme for the seventy-sixth session, deciding to include a range of new items on its agenda, also noting that practical arrangements will still be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acting on the recommendation of its General Committee, contained in its first report (document A/76/250), the Assembly decided that the general debate will be held from 21 to 28 September.
Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the Assembly’s seventy-sixth session, highlighted several of the General Committee’s recommendations, including one drawing the world body’s attention to the fact that pandemic-related restrictions will affect various events during the session. All changes reflect risk assessments and advice provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Committee of the Crisis Operations Group, he said, adding that assessments are also based on host city and state guidance, the current phase of the COVID-19 reintegration plan for Headquarters and an up-to-date understanding of the risks posed by the pandemic to delegates and United Nations personnel.
Also acting on the General Committee’s recommendation, it adopted a related decision, deciding that, without setting a precedent for future plenary meetings. a pre-recorded statement can be submitted where quarantine requirements or travel restrictions are in place.
Turning to a range of items recommended for inclusion in its agenda, the Assembly then endorsed all recommendations by consensus, except one. Taking up the recommendation to include the topic of the situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, the Russian Federation’s delegate requested a recorded vote, with the Assembly deciding to include it, by a recorded vote of 65 in favour to 37 against, with 11 abstentions.
Prior to adopting this decision, the Assembly heard general statements from several delegates. The Russian Federation’s representative requested a vote on the item. He said there are no occupied territories of Ukraine, and what is happening there is a civil war. As such, the agenda item title does not reflect the actual situation, and Ukraine is launching baseless accusations against the Russian Federation, he stated.
Slovenia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, regretted to note that a vote had been called. Referring to the bloc’s explanation of the vote from last week’s meeting, she said the European Union will therefore vote in favour of including the item on the Assembly’s agenda.
Ukraine’s representative said the Russian Federation is trying to turn the issue into a kerfuffle. The inability to come to terms with the views of United Nations members pushes the Russian Federation to the extreme. Only by blackmail, intimidation and harassment does the Russian Federation raise support for its goals in the General Assembly, he said, calling on Member States to vote “yes” on including the above mentioned item.
The United States representative said his delegation supports the inclusion of this item, regretting to note opposition to it. He encouraged all delegations to vote in favour of the decision.
Syria’s delegate regretted to note that some countries aim at deepening divisions instead of strengthening relations.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the Russian Federation’s representative said that the statement of Ukraine’s delegate shows that the authorities “reformatted” the brains of the people. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union during World War II and, thanks to Joseph Stalin, that country was considered among the founding members of the United Nations. His statement betrayed his country’s own ancestors.
The Assembly then decided to include a range of items on its agenda, including: “Strengthening cooperation for integrated coastal zone management for achieving sustainable development”; “Natural plant fibres and sustainable development”; “Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours”; “Youth, disarmament and non-proliferation”; “Election of members of the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent”; “International cooperation on access to justice for survivors of sexual violence”; “Observer status for the International Solar Alliance in the General Assembly”; and “The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.
It then decided to exclude the agenda item on the Question of the Comorian island of Mayotte, and deferred consideration of the item on the Question of the Malagasy islands of Glorieuses, Juan de Nova, Europa and Bassas da India.
Regarding the work of its Main Committees, the Assembly endorsed the recommendation that the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) complete its work by 12 November; Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) by 12 November; Second Committee (Economic and Financial) by 24 November; Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) by 18 November; and the Sixth Committee (Legal) by 19 November.
The Assembly also decided that the delegations of the Holy See and the State of Palestine would participate in the seventy‑sixth session as observer States, and that the European Union would participate as an observer.
In other business, the Assembly adopted draft decision (document A/76/L.1), thus approving the participation of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector, as listed in the annex in the high-level meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 21 September, to begin its general debate.