(New York) In an unprecedented step at a session of the UN General Assembly's Third Committee - which is tasked with considering social, humanitarian and cultural matters, Belarus introduced a no-action motion on an entire agenda item – relating to country situations on Iran, DPRK (North Korea), Syria and Crimea – in a move to stop discussion and action on these resolutions. This attempt was roundly rejected and the Committee went on to adopt resolutions on all these country situations.
‘The Third Committee has reasserted the value of debate on country situations by rejecting this no-action motion, and by adopting a new country resolution on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol,’ said ISHR’s Madeleine Sinclair.
Introducing the no-action motion, Belarus argued that country resolutions were ‘an arbitrary instrument of coercion’ and a ‘haughty voice of reprimand and intimidation’. Furthermore, country resolutions were useless if the country in question wasn’t on board. The Belarus Ambassador noted that either the world was in ‘utter denial’ of the counterproductivity of country resolutions, or simply didn’t care. Other States supported Belarus noting that they were in favour of ‘cooperation and dialogue’ which they claimed only the Universal Periodic Review ensured.
These positions were strongly rejected by other States, including Saudi Arabia who noted that the no-action motion deprived Member States of the ‘important opportunity’ to decide the merits of an individual resolution. To remove all four resolutions under discussion, which had collected over 160 sponsors, would be an ‘unconscionable decision’, the Ambassador noted.
Days earlier NGOs had expressed concern at the use of the no-action motion noting that, if successful, it would signal that the UN was not a place where freedom of expression is respected, nor open debate encouraged.
With the no-action motion rejected (101 to 32, with 37 abstentions) the Third Committee considered country resolutions. On the resolution on their own country Iran noted that ‘our imperfection is no greater than any other country’ and didn’t merit a country resolution. Both Brazil and Mexico abstained noting that they felt that a focus on technical assistance in the resolution would have been more helpful.
In regard to the resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the DPRK described the resolution an ‘illegal document’ on which they saw no need to call a vote. They did not consider there to be consensus on the text and called on all States to disassociate themselves from it. No vote was called so the resolution was adopted by consensus.
All other resolutions – on Crimea, Iran and Syria – were put to a vote and adopted. The adoption of the new resolution on Crimea was met with elation by supporters in the room.
Vote records on country resolutions:
Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol: 73 – 23 (76 abstentions)
Iran: 85 – 35 (63 abstentions)
Syria: 116 – 15 (49 abstentions)