4 July 2003


Roles of States, UN Bodies, Other Stakeholders Defined;
Assembly Extends Mandate of Working Group on Security Council Enlargement

NEW YORK, 3 July (UN Headquarters) -- After five months of intensive negotiations, the General Assembly today adopted a resolution on the prevention of armed conflict, hailed as one of the most important resolutions of the current session and expected to be a landmark in the Organization’s efforts in that field.

An annex to the resolution (A/57/L.79) sets out the roles of Member States, the Assembly itself, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the Secretary-General, as well as of regional organizations, civil society and the private sector, in preventing armed conflict.

Welcoming the adoption of the text, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette recalled that the Secretary-General had taken conflict prevention as one of his major priorities, pledging to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention.  As he had stated, the United Nations had an obligation to the victims of violence around the world to take seriously the challenge of prevention and to move from rhetoric to reality.

She added that the Secretariat, for its part, was committed to strengthening the capacity of the United Nations system to carry out more effectively its responsibilities for the prevention of armed conflict.  As called for in the resolution, the Secretariat would submit a detailed review of the capacity of the United Nations system in the context of preparing a comprehensive report to the Assembly on the implementation of the resolution.  (For the full text of the statement, see Press Release DSG/SM/201-GA/10144.)

Introducing the text and responding to certain concerns, Assembly President Jan Kavan (Czech Republic) emphasized that the language would not set a precedent for any future negotiations.  Its adoption, by consensus, would give a strong political signal to the world and confirm the strong will of all Member States to enhance the United Nations preventive capacity and to move further from a culture of reaction to one of prevention.

Although the concept of the prevention of armed conflict had been at the forefront of the United Nations attention for a long time, only after the Secretary-General’s report did Member States begin to work more intensively on the project, he said.  It had not been an easy process and had taken the Assembly three years to produce a concrete response to the Secretary-General’s report (A/55/985).

Mr. Kavan said he had aimed at producing a text that was clear and intelligible, yet strong, laying out all the principal elements relevant to the General Assembly’s role in the prevention of armed conflict.  The final text was a “good compromise” and provided a sound base for further strengthening the role of the United Nations in armed conflict prevention.  He paid tribute to the many people that participated in concluding a consensus text.

Several delegations expressed their concern about the language in the resolution serving as a precedent for future negotiations.  Iran’s representative said that while he agreed with the content in the paragraphs on the obligation of States regarding multilateral disarmament treaties, he could not agree with the universality of those treaties.  The present language in the resolution enabled non—States parties to delay their accession to those treaties and to keep their facilities outside the monitoring regime.

The representative of the United States regretted that the text had become a vehicle for comment on unrelated subjects.  For example, official development assistance (ODA) was neither the cause nor the solution to armed conflict and its inclusion was not entirely relevant.  Several delegations, including Jordan, Pakistan and Egypt, would have preferred stronger language regarding foreign occupation.  Israel’s representative regretted that certain delegations had sought to introduce politicized language into the text, which undermined the noble mission of the resolution.

As a country emerging from armed conflict and trying to prevent a reoccurrence of conflict, Sierra Leone had actively participated in the negotiations on the text, stated its representative.  While not legally binding, the resolution would be a powerful document carrying moral weight, which deserved the attention of those committed to peace and the prevention of armed conflict.

Also taking part in the discussion were the representatives of Peru (on behalf of the Rio Group), Guatemala, Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Armenia and Morocco.

In other action, the Assembly adopted a decision recommended by its Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council.  In doing so, the Assembly welcomed the progress made, as provisional agreement has been recorded on a large number of issues.  Noting that substantial differences of views remain on other issues, it decided that the Working Group should continue its work during the fifty-eighth session.

The next meeting of the Assembly will be announced.

Summary of Text

By the terms of the text, contained in document A/57/L.79, the Assembly decided to adopt the conclusions and recommendations annexed to it, based on its consideration of the report of the Secretary-General on the prevention of armed conflict (A/55/985-S/2001/574), addressing the roles of Member States, the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretary-General, regional organizations, civil society and the private sector.

The Assembly called on Member States to achieve the goals of the Millennium Declaration, including development goals, and the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits.  Member States and the international community at large were called upon to support poverty eradication measures and the development strategies of developing countries.

Further, the Assembly called on Member States to implement their obligations assumed as States parties to treaties in such areas as arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament and to strengthen their international verification instruments; and urged them, as well as relevant United Nations bodies, to take appropriate measures to fully implement the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (document A/CONF.192/15, para. 24).

The Assembly called for Member States’ compliance in good faith with their obligations to international legal instruments relevant to the prevention of conflict and further urged them to make the most effective use of existing and new procedures and methods for the peaceful settlement of their disputes, including arbitration, mediation and other treaty-based arrangements, and the International Court of Justice, to settle their disputes in a peaceful manner and, thereby, promote the role of international law in international relations.

  Also, the Assembly invited States that had not already done so to consider becoming parties to arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament treaties.  Further, it stressed the need to bring to justice perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a significant contribution towards the promotion of a culture of prevention; and also stressed the important role that women, in their various capacities, and with their expertise, training and knowledge could play in preventing armed conflict in all its aspects.

Regarding the role of the Security Council, the Assembly recommended that the Council continue to mandate peacekeeping operations and include in them peace-building elements.  It encouraged the Council to give prompt consideration to early warning or prevention cases brought to its attention by the Secretary-General, and to use appropriate mechanisms, such as the Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, with due regard to relevant regional and subregional dimensions.  Additionally, the Assembly reaffirmed that the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security is conferred upon the Security Council.

In addition, the Assembly called for the strengthening of cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations in the prevention of armed conflict, particularly in capacity-building and the coordination of their respective activities.  For that purpose, it requested the Secretary-General to present concrete proposals for enhancing Secretariat support of those activities within his comprehensive report.  Similarly, the Assembly recognized civil society’s important role in armed conflict prevention by inviting it to continue to support such efforts.

The Assembly supported the more active involvement of the Economic and Social Council with regard to the prevention of armed conflict, and welcomed ECOSOC resolution 2002/1 of 15 July 2002, which envisages the creation of ad hoc advisory groups on African countries emerging from conflicts.

As to the role of the Secretary-General, the Assembly welcomed his intention to engage within the United Nations system in a focused dialogue on what practical measures the latter needs to take to promote greater coherence in its activities aimed at the prevention or armed conflict.  Also, it recommended that consideration be given to identifying the proper framework for the elaboration of system-wide coherent and action-oriented strategies within the United Nations system, at Headquarters and in the field, and for rationalizing the funding procedures for the prevention of armed conflict.

Regarding its own role, the Assembly expressed its determination to make more effective use of its powers under various and relevant Articles of the Charter for the prevention of armed conflict, and decided to consider ways of enhancing interaction with the other United Nations organs, especially the Security Council and the ECOSOC, and with the Secretary-General in developing and implementing long- and short-term measures and strategies aimed at preventing armed conflict.

Report of Working Group

The Assembly also had before it a report of the Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council (document A/57/47), describing the Working Group’s five sessions held during the fifty-seventh session.

The report states that, during those five sessions, the Working Group, established in 1993, considered in a similar and balanced manner, the “Cluster I” and “Cluster II” issues.  Cluster I issues include decision-making in the Security Council, including the veto; expansion of the Security Council; and periodic review of the enlarged Security Council.  Cluster II issues address the working methods of the Security Council and transparency of its work.

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