Concluding Session, Second Committee Passes 12 Texts, Including Drafts Addressing Illicit Financial Flows, Disaster Risk Reduction

The General Assembly would express concern that virtual assets are increasingly being used for illicit activities in 1 of 11 draft resolutions and a draft decision the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today approved as it concluded its work for the main part of the General Assembly’s seventy-third session.

Further to the text on promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return to foster sustainable development, the Assembly would call on countries to cooperate in mutual legal assistance and automatic exchange of financial account information in achieving such a goal.

Highlighting the draft’s shortcomings, the representative of the United States said it failed to acknowledge the United Nations Convention against Corruption as the primary legal framework for combating corruption, undermining the ability of countries to constructively work together. Further, her country disagreed with the text’s implication that developing countries are more affected by corruption than developed ones.

Austria’s delegate, speaking for the European Union, pointed to the absence of an agreed international definition on illicit financial flows, which the Committee should not attempt to lay down. Agreeing with the non-definition, the representative of Nigeria said illicit financial flows generally refer to cross border movement of money stemming from criminal and fraudulent financial activities.

Several drafts similarly focused on financial and other resource gaps in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including one titled ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. By that draft, the Assembly would strongly encourage Governments and other stakeholders to increase the global share of new and renewable energy. It would further underscore the importance of wider access to cleaner and more sustainable cooking and heating methods.

Addressing that text, the representative of the Russian Federation said it fails to recognize the role of different energy resources, noting that fossil fuels will make up 70 per cent of global energy until 2040. Venezuela’s delegate said her country discounted any references to the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, which intrudes on public State policies and national sovereignty.

Another draft titled disaster risk reduction would have the Assembly underline the need to address economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change. It would further emphasize that disaster prevention, preparedness, early actions and resilience-building in most cases are significantly more cost-effective than emergency response.

A draft on industrial development cooperation was approved by a recorded vote of 177 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions. A further text on agriculture development, food security and nutrition was approved by a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions.

The Committee also approved drafts on external debt sustainability and development; follow-up to and implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; report of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); and effective global response to address the impacts of the El NiAo phenomenon.

In addition, the Committee approved a draft decision titled second high-level United Nations Conference on South South cooperation: draft provisional rules of procedure and provisional agenda. In addition, it approved the draft programme of work of the Second Committee for the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly.

In closing remarks, Assistant Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs Elliott Harris underscored the Committee’s contributions to the General Assembly, including guidance on the Sustainable Development Goals. During its session, the Committee focused on people, the planet and prosperity, reflecting on poverty eradication, migration, core environmental issues, agriculture and food as well as the new circular economy.

Vice-Chair Mehdi Remaoun (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Committee Chairperson, noting that gaps and challenges remain in sustainable development, said deliberations of the last several weeks revealed the complexity of issues at hand as well as various approaches espoused by individual delegations and groups of countries. Despite differences between nations, the commitment to the same goals as and the passion to reach them is unyielding, he said.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Egypt, Nigeria, Liechtenstein, Republic of Korea, Algeria, Costa Rica, Mexico and CAte d’Ivoire.

Action on Draft Resolutions

Speaking before action on the draft resolutions by the Second Committee, the representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said his group has submitted many draft resolutions and engaged in constructive dialogue throughout negotiations during the session to achieve consensus in addressing global economic challenges. At times, it took on board proposals that went against the Group’s preferred decisions, but it accepted the agreed language to reach consensus.

His group’s vision is for the Committee and the United Nations to pursue its mission by providing and reinforcing the means to implement what has been agreed, rather than renegotiating it. The core of international agreements adopted recently is to ensure inclusiveness at the international, regional and country levels, so that no country or person is left behind. Those concepts are complementary to each other, not contradictive, as the international community must ensure that countries are properly assisted in leaving no individual behind. Countries are entrusted to develop policies and enforce laws to guarantee inclusiveness for societies in accomplishing that end.

The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reflects a people centred approach to development that focuses on the dignity and rights of each individual. However, the Union is now concerned that there has been a gradual and subtle movement towards a concept of development that focuses on States rather than individuals, shifting the international community away from the universal approach of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Union cannot accept a gradual reinterpretation of a concept underwritten by all leaders.

During negotiations in 2018, the Union has consistently proposed alternative language for the relevant preambular and operative paragraphs closely based on what leaders agreed and firmly faithful to their vision for the 2030 Agenda. It regrets that these proposals were not accepted and that fellow negotiators refused to even come to the table to discuss this issue, rebuffing the Union’s attempts to find a compromise text that would have bridged the positions. He then proposed modification to the current text.

The Committee then approved a draft titled external debt sustainability and development (document A/C.2/73/L.50), without a vote, withdrawing a previous text on the same topic.

Speaking after the action, the representative of Norway said the Committee has reached consensus on the draft but noted that there were also difficult substantive discussions. The resultant draft, however, is in line with commitments to work towards long term debt sustainability.

The representative of the United States said the draft does not sufficiently address issues like debt sustainability and transparency or the issue of minority bondholders. It is outside the scope of the United Nations to enforce financial or bondholder contracts.

Next, the Committee took up a draft titled promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return to foster sustainable development (document A/C.2/73/L.19/Rev.1) and amendments to the text (document A/C.2/73/L.57).

Introducing the amendments, the representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern regarding operative paragraph 10 of the draft, adding that it did not reflect the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. He suggested language that would help bring the text closer to the vision of the 2030 Agenda.

The amendments were rejected by a recorded vote of 121 against to 44 in favour, with 8 abstentions (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Turkey).

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of Austria expressed regret that consensus could not be found. The Union stood ready to engage in consultations in 2019.

The original draft was then approved without a vote.

Speaking in explanation of position after the adoption, the representative of Austria said that while the Union had joined consensus on the resolution, it had concerns regarding the process that led to the 2018 outcome. Some of our partners did not engage in the negotiations at an earlier stage and we had to end up again with a facilitator’s text this year, he pointed out, also adding that there is no agreed international definition on illicit financial flows and the Committee should not attempt to define them.

The representative of the United States said that combating money laundering and corruption is essential to the international community’s prosperity. However, the language in the current resolution undermined the ability of countries to work together constructively. The United Nations Convention against Corruption is the primary legal framework for combating corruption, she said, and the resolution did not acknowledge that. Further, the United States did not agree with the implication that developing States are more affected by corruption than developed countries. Referring to a joint statement made with Japan, she expressed disappointment at the effort to undermine the Financial Action Task Force.

Also taking the floor in explanation of position, the representative of Nigeria said that the timely recovery and return of assets is crucial to combating illicit financial flows. International cooperation to address such flows is a work in progress, he said, adding that while there is no agreed definition on illicit financial flows, it generally refers to cross border movement of money stemming from criminal and fraudulent financial activities. Looking forward to the convening of the requested high level meeting of the General Assembly to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen asset return, he stressed that the current text is a substantial improvement on the 2017 resolutions.

The representative of Liechtenstein expressed his country’s long standing commitment to combating illicit financial flows, adding that it is imperative that the resolution be consistent with the Convention against Corruption. Expressing disappointment with the lack of transparency in the negotiation process, he said that illicit financial flows are not limited to stolen assets, and the current title of the resolution causes deliberate confusion.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said that the adoption of the resolution will contribute to the promotion of cooperation in combating illicit financial flows. As an active member of the Financial Action Task Force, her country believes that new developments in this field must consider the evolving realities in the international financial market.

Following that, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft titled follow up to and implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/C.2/73/L.53), withdrawing a previous text on the same topic.

Before the action, the Secretary read out a statement on procedure regarding resources required to implement the draft.

Also, before the action, the representative of Algeria, facilitator to the draft, thanked the various contributors to the text.

The Committee then turned to a draft titled effective global response to address the impacts of the El NiAo phenomenon (document A/C.2/73/L.6/Rev.1) and amendments to the text (document A/C.2/73/L.59).

Introducing the amendments, the representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed disappointment that stronger language was not included in the text, especially regarding climate change, which is likely to magnify the effects of El NiAo. He then expressed concern that language in the text did not reflect the person centred approach of the 2030 Agenda and proposed modifications to the text.

The amendments were rejected by a recorded vote of 117 against to 44 in favour, with 8 abstentions (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Turkey).

The original draft was then approved without a vote.

Next, the Committee took up a draft titled disaster risk reduction (A/C.2/73/L.15/Rev.1) and amendments to the text (document A/C.2/73/L.58).

Introducing the amendments, the representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said language in the draft does not correctly reflect the person-centred approach of the 2030 Agenda and read out proposed modifications.

The amendments were rejected by a recorded vote of 121 against to 44 in favour, with 8 abstentions (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Turkey).

The Committee then approved the original draft without a vote.

Following that, the Committee turned to the report of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (document A/C.2/73/L.49), withdrawing a previous draft on the same topic.

Speaking in explanation of position before the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation noted that his delegation had demonstrated flexibility during the negotiations. While the work of UNEP is valuable, there was a technical mistake in the drawing up of the programme budget implications. Thanking the delegations for achieving a compromise, he said the Secretary General must submit a relevant proposal and asked that the consideration of the draft should be deferred to 5 December.

Responding, the representative of Algeria asked if this meant that the Committee would not be able to conclude its work today.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that his delegation did not intend to change the wording of the draft. The document on programme budget implications did not reflect what was agreed on, and that is a shame, he said. It is technically possible to act on this resolution on 5 December, he added.

The Vice Chair noted that a plenary on 5 December would be an extension of the work of the Committee and maybe not the best use of the resources.

The representative of Algeria proposed that an oral amendment could be made and if the Committee accepted it, then the adoption could continue.

The representative of Costa Rica, also speaking on behalf of Estonia, stressed the need the address the systemic problem, and said that the language used in that connection had led to a financial consideration. We have no certainty as to what the Budget Office will generate, he said, adding that its proposal would pass to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) for consideration.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the Advisory Committee and Fifth Committee should act based on document L.68. They cannot change the fundamentals of the resolution. The two documents being sent from the Second to the Fifth were the resolution and the programme budget implications, he said, also making an oral amendment to paragraph 9 of the resolution.

The representative of Austria said that the wording in the resolution is carefully balanced and to add new language at this late stage would be difficult.

The Vice Chair proposed that the consideration of the draft be deferred to the end of today’s meeting to make time for explanations and clarifications.

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said that his group needed time to consider the amendment and called for a suspension of the meeting.

The Vice Chair repeated his proposal. The Committee approved that proposal.

Next, the Committee turned to a draft titled ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/C.2/73/L.40/Rev.1) and amendments to the text (document A/C.2/73/L.60).

Introducing the amendments, the representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the language in the draft does not correctly reflect the person centred approach of the 2030 Agenda and read out proposed modifications.

The amendments were rejected by a recorded vote of 122 against to 44 in favour, with 8 abstentions (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Turkey).

The Committee then approved the original draft without a vote.

Speaking after the approval, the representative of the Russian Federation, also speaking on behalf of Turkey and Algeria, said they supported the draft but were disappointed that the text falls short of recognizing the role of different energy resources in a balanced manner. Despite the significance of renewable energy resources, fossil fuels will still make up 70 per cent of the global energy mix until 2040 and a clean, safe manner for their use should be considered.

The representative of Venezuela said her country joined consensus but disagreed with references to the Secretary General’s proposal titled energy for all, as these were not included through the regular consultation or negotiation process. Also, her country does not accept any references to the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, as these intervene in public State policies and national sovereignty.

The representative of the United States said the United Nations must respect the independent mandates of other processes and institutions. Her country does not support references in the draft to technology transfer which was involuntary and not on State terms, which are intended to prejudice negotiations already underway in more appropriate fora.

Following that, the Committee took up a draft titled industrial development cooperation (document A/C.2/73/L.10/Rev.1) and amendments to the text (document A/C.2/73/L.63).

Introducing the amendments, the representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern that some of the language in the resolution did not reflect the approach enshrined in the 2030 Agenda. He proposed some modifications such as deleting preambular paragraph 34.

The amendments were rejected by a recorded vote of 120 against to 44 in favour, with 8 abstentions (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Turkey).

The original draft was then approved by a recorded vote of 177 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of the United States said that his country withdrew from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in 1996 because the agency lacked a clear purpose. The United Nations must respect the independent mandates including trade decisions and there should be no misconception that the United States will heed the General Assembly’s decisions in such matters.

The Committee then approved, without a vote, a decision titled draft provisional rules of procedure and provisional agenda of the second High level United Nations Conference on South South Cooperation (document A/C.2/73/L.54).

Next, the Committee turned to a draft titled agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/C.2/73/L.7/Rev.1) and amendments to the text (document A/C.2/73/L.66).

Introducing the amendments, the representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern that the text did not reflect the approach enshrined in the 2030 Agenda and proposed some language changes.

The amendments were rejected by a recorded vote of 119 against to 44 in favour, with 8 abstentions (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Turkey).

The original text was then approved by a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of the Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that while the bloc’s proposals on a people centred approach were not included in the draft, he welcomed the improvements in the current text and fully supported all the trade related language.

Also speaking in explanation of position, the representative of the United States noted that his country is the single largest bilateral donor to programmes that improve global food security. But the resolution goes well beyond the appropriate role of the Assembly. We do not treat the right to food as an enforceable obligation, he said.

Next, the representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, introduced a draft titled towards global partnerships (document A/C.2/73/L.32/Rev.1), stressing that the text could positively contribute to implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Adding that the draft demonstrates that most principles governing partnerships are universally shared, he said partnerships will be critical to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The resolution aims to maximize the impact of partnerships, which should complement Government efforts and be consistent with national development strategies.

The text was approved without a vote.

Addressing all resolutions approved today, the representative of Venezuela thanked the Vice-Chair, Bureau and Secretariat for the support they gave delegations over long hours of negotiations. She also requested that reservations her country had expressed to certain resolutions be duly recorded.

Following that, the Committee approved, without a vote, a text titled draft programme of work of the Second Committee for the seventy fourth session of the General Assembly (document A/C.2/73/L.67).

The representative of Austria expressed disapproval of the item in the programme of work on rural poverty, as it expanded an already heavy agenda and would duplicate resources and energy needed for similar resolutions. The Union reserves the right to decide if and how it engages on this agenda item, he said.

Following that, the Committee returned to the report of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (document A/C.2/73/L.49) and report of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (document A/C.2/73/L.68).

To allow the various groups to coordinate their positions on this draft, the Vice-Chair decided to reconvene the meeting in the afternoon.

The Committee then returned to the draft resolution titled report of the United Nations Environment.

The representative of the Russian Federation withdrew the oral amendment he made in the previous session and said he agrees with the Vice-Chair’s request to review the programme budget implications of the draft resolution, as contained in document A/C.2/73/L.68, to better reflect the resolution.

The representative of Mexico said that he wanted to be absolutely clear that the Vice-Chair would make a statement addressed to the Secretariat and there would be no oral amendment.

The Vice-Chair confirmed that he would be making a statement.

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said that the group is ready to take action. The Russian Federation’s proposal is not in line with the procedures of the Second Committee. Therefore, the Group is not in agreement with having the Vice-Chair make a statement, she stressed.

The Vice-Chair said that the proposal of the Russian Federation will be noted.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that as per protocol, the notes should reflect that his delegation offered a compromise proposal that was rejected by the Group of 77.

The Committee then adopted the draft without a vote.

Speaking in explanation after adoption, the representative of Japan expressed disappointment that clear programme budget implications were not given to Member States. Japan had repeatedly called for better financial management of UNEP during negotiations, he recalled.

The representative of the United States said that her country does not support any additional allocation to UNEP from the regular United Nations budget. No substantive case had been made for extra allocations, she said.

The representative of the Russian Federation, agreeing with the statement made by Japan, drew attention to the negotiation process on paragraph 9 and said that the Secretary General’s document should reflect the compromises we arrived at. He dissociated his delegation from paragraph 9.

The representative of Cote d’Ivoire, referring to action on the draft titled eradicating rural poverty to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (document A/C.2/73/L.18/Rev.1), said he has applied for an extension to the vote on this text. His country would have voted in favour of the draft.

The representative of the United States, referring to the same draft, said her country does not fund or support referrals for abortion in its health care services. It rejects others perverting the term health-care services to include abortion.

In closing remarks, Assistant Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs Elliott Harris underscored the Second Committee’s contributions to the General Assembly in providing guidance on the Sustainable Development Goals. The Committee focused on three key elements in performing this function � people, the planet and prosperity. It heard a detailed analysis of world issues from its keynote speaker, reflected on poverty eradication and migration and discussed ways of empowering the response to a growing global population. It also focused on core environmental issues, agriculture and food, and the circular economy, which could be new tool in achieving the 2030 Agenda.

Vice-Chair Mehdi Remaoun (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Committee Chairperson, noting that gaps and challenges remain in sustainable development, said deliberations of the last several weeks revealed the complexity of issues at hand as well as various approaches espoused by individual delegations and groups of countries. However, despite differences, the commitment to the same goals as well as the passion to reach them is unyielding.

Continuing, he said the keynote address was an excellent start to the Committee’s deliberations, focusing on countries facing the most severe challenges and emphasizing the value and urgency of implementing the 2030 Agenda, Addis Ababa Action Plan and Paris Agreement. The Committee also benefited from side events bringing together experts to explore key policies seeking to address gaps in social and physical infrastructure as well as efforts from international financial institutions, creditors and debtors to contain debt vulnerabilities in developing countries.

Source: United Nations