Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Russian MFA on the holding of the 74th UN General Assembly session in New York

Submitted on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 11:07

The 74th UN General Assembly session – the main international forum for the comprehensive discussion of major global issues – started in New York on 17 September 2019.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov heads the Russian delegation during the high-level week. By tradition, his programme in New York will be fairly intensive. It includes dozens of meetings with heads of state, government and foreign ministries, for instance, meetings with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande and meetings with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and in other formats with BRICS and CSTO representatives.

The current session is taking place against the backdrop of the further escalation of global and regional tensions, the erosion of international law, attempts to undermine the contractual foundation of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, and the growth of instability in global finances and the economy.

These trends are determined by the attempts of a number of states to use force for the unilateral promotion of their own interests and curbing the objective development of a polycentric world order.

Under the circumstances, the Russian Federation will continue supporting the consolidation of the UN central and coordinating role in global affairs. The UN remains a unique, zero option venue for equitable dialogue aimed at drafting decisions that consider the entire range of opinions. Attempts to undermine its authority and legitimacy and to erode or replace its prerogatives are fraught with the dismantling of the entire system of international relations.

We will focus our efforts on supporting the formation of a multi-polar world order, promoting a positive and unifying agenda aimed at improving the international atmosphere, searching for adequate responses to current challenges and threats, and achieving equal and indivisible security with unconditional respect for the sovereignty and the right of nations to choose an independent path of development. We will continue upholding the need to strictly abide by the UN Charter and other standards of international law.

We will specifically focus on counteracting the attempts of a narrow group of states to promote the so-called rules-based world order concept. We have repeatedly noted that these ill-reputed “rules” are not identical to universally recognised norms of international law, developed in closed-door crony clubs and then imposed on the rest of the world as the new international community’s position. Such actions, as a rule, are accompanied by pressure on those who disagree with the use of financial and economic sanctions, trade restrictions and other unilateral actions.

Russia supports realistic initiatives aimed at optimising the General Assembly’s work, provided they emphasise updating its practices and methods and streamlining its agenda. It is important to continue working towards strengthening the financial and personnel capacities of the office of the UN GA President. Attempts to redistribute other UN statutory bodies’ powers, including the Security Council, to the General Assembly, are unacceptable.

There have been many initiatives with a pronounced confrontational edge at the General Assembly of late, which can strain the situation and provoke serious friction between the member states. We feel strongly that the General Assembly should not be used as an arena for squabbles or high-profile promotion events. On the contrary, it requires an atmosphere of constructive interaction.

UN Security Council reform is aimed at expanding the representation of developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, without compromising its effectiveness and efficiency. The best reform model that would enjoy the broadest possible support should be sought through intergovernmental negotiations without setting artificial timelines. The permanent members’ prerogatives, including the right to veto, are not subject to revision.

We need to continue improving UN peacekeeping activities; at the same time, the basic principles of peacekeeping should remain unshakable. It is the governments that host peacekeeping operations that bear the main responsibility for the security of the population, the launch of a political process, the elimination of the causes of conflict, and post-conflict reconstruction. The mandates of peacekeeping operations must be clear and realistic, must fully match the UN’s goals and the current realities.

We are confident of the key and non-alternative role of the UN in ensuring international information security (IIS) and welcome its reappearance on the agenda of the two core UN agencies – the Open-Ended Working Group and the Group of Government Experts. It is important that the work of both groups is organised in a complementary, non-confrontational and constructive manner, and that the results are mutually supportive.

We consistently advocate the strengthening of existing and consensus-based development of new agreements for arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. We insist that the central role in this process be assigned to the UN and its multilateral disarmament mechanism. We pursue a policy to increase the efficiency of its key elements – the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, the UN Disarmament Commission and the Conference on Disarmament in accordance with the UN Charter, and other international laws and their mandates.

Russia is the initiator of the development of important multilateral arms control agreements – Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) and the Suppression of Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism. We are committed to a constructive dialogue on these matters based on the principles of nondiscrimination, equal and indivisible security for all.

We will continue to firmly uphold the principle that distorting history and revising the outcome of World War II is unacceptable. In line with these efforts, Russia will again introduce a draft resolution in the General Assembly on “Combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” a resolution that traditionally enjoys the support of most UN member states.

Presuming that the main responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights lies with the states, with the UN executive bodies’ supporting role, we advocate further delineation of functions between UN bodies and agencies, based on the understanding that human rights issues integrated in all spheres of its activities should not lead to duplication of its main bodies’ work.

We stand for a comprehensive approach to resolving conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa without applying double standards or external interference. Disagreements, even the most serious ones, must be resolved by political and diplomatic methods. At the same time, the international community should provide truly collective support. We consider it urgent to create a regional security architecture that is comprehensive, single and indivisible for all MENA countries.

We are interested in the Gulf states and their international partners reaching agreements on ways to ensure security in this area on a truly inclusive basis, which is the ultimate idea of the Russian Concept of Collective Security in the Persian Gulf, based on a phased approach, multilateralism and strict observance of international law, primarily the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions.

We continue our vigorous efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Syria and support the launch of the Constitutional Committee as soon as possible. It was established under decision of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi and in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and Astana format agreements with due respect for the country’s sovereignty and integrity. We support the efforts to the Syrian Government to eradicate the terrorist threat on its territory.

We uphold the mediation of UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen to assist the sides in the Syrian crisis to reach compromise solutions.

We support the buildup of assistance for the needs of Syria’s restoration in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and without politicisation and without linking this assistance to a “political transition” that is interpreted by the West as Bashar al-Assad’s departure. We stand for the lifting of unilateral sanctions against Syria. Successful efforts by humanitarian agencies in Syria depend on respect for its sovereignty and close cooperation with its official authorities.

We denounce attempts to create illegal mechanisms in the OPCW for rendering political pressure on the Syrian government. We support the transparency of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission that must process the testimonies of witnesses and material evidence in strict conformity with OPCW procedures.

We reaffirm our commitment to the overcoming of a protracted crisis in Yemen. We support the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths to promote the implementation of the agreements between the Yemeni government and Ansar Allah on Al-Hudaydah. It is necessary to begin coordinating political agreements with a view to ending the conflict with due account for the interests of all Yemenis, including representatives of the south. 

We advocate stabilisation in Iraq as soon as possible.

We are concerned about the continued military-political crisis in Libya. We believe it is necessary for the conflicting power centres to find points of contact as soon as possible to facilitate the creation of effective pan-Libyan government bodies that rely on the support of all patriotic forces, the main Libyan regions and tribes, with active UN assistance.

We are committed to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon. We reaffirm the imperative of observing international law, including UN Security Council resolutions and the role of the Interim Force in Lebanon in maintaining stability on the Blue Line.

We continue working with all key participants in the political process of the Middle East settlement in the bid to move it beyond deadlock. We are working to restore Palestinian unity. Unilateral actions by the sides that claim the role of mediation will produce no results if international law and basic UN Security Council resolutions are ignored. We support the use of the quartet of international mediators.

Stable functioning of government bodies in Bosnia and Herzegovina is possible if the equality of two entities and three state-forming nations is observed in accordance with the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreements. The main goal is to transfer responsibility for the destiny of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Bosnians themselves. It is unacceptable to use the Trans-Atlantic perspective for undermining the fragile internal political balance in the country. The elimination of the High Representative’s office is long overdue.

The solution to the Kosovo issue must be based on Security Council Resolution 1244. We are worried about the deteriorating security situation in the area and the worsening prospects for achieving an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, which are to be blamed on Kosovo Albanians.  

On September 24-25, we will analyse the progress made during the first four years of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the 2030 Agenda) at the High-Level Political Forum. We believe and hope that the forum will produce and approve sound long-term decisions that will incorporate diverse national backgrounds, on the one hand, and modern global trends, on the other.

We remain fully committed to the 2030 Agenda guidelines while drafting our development strategy through 2024. In keeping with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Executive Order No. 204 On National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation Through 2024, dated May 7, 2018, 12 priority national projects are being carried out in all areas that are of critical importance to efforts to ensure sustainable development.  

The issue of securing access to healthcare for all people stands out among the healthcare related issues under review at the UN. For example, under the 2030 Agenda, the member countries have extended their obligations to ensure universal access to healthcare services, including protection against financial risk and access to essential health and sanitary services, as well as access to safe, effective, quality and affordable drugs and vaccines for all people, which they included in the Sustainable Development Objective 3.   

Universal healthcare coverage is an objective in and of itself and is also a means to addressing other healthcare objectives. It is important to bring healthcare systems to a level that will allow the countries to ensure comprehensive prevention of diseases, thereby preventing serious non-communicable diseases and arresting the propagation of contagious diseases. 

We attach great importance to universal healthcare coverage, given that our country was the first to support and strengthen primary healthcare services. It is important in this context that the first international document on ensuring access to healthcare services for everyone was adopted in our country. This happened at the International Primary Healthcare Services Conference in 1978.