Delegates Also Adopt Text on Education for Democracy, Closing Digital Divides
Voting by secret ballot, the General Assembly today elected Inger Andersen (Denmark) — on the nomination of the Secretary-General — as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for a second term of four years, commencing on 15 June 2023 and ending on 14 June 2027, following the defeat of a request to the Secretary-General to invite Member States to present candidates for that position.
In introducing a draft decision with that request, the representative of the Russian Federation voiced his disappointment over the lack of consensus regarding the presentation of an Executive Director for UNEP, a Programme which he said has been monopolized by the representatives of Western countries, openly advanced European environmental priorities and ignored the interests of developing countries. Despite his country’s appeals, the Secretary-General did not propose nor advance candidates from other countries. Opening up the call for candidates will ensure transparency and regional participation, his colleague from Belarus emphasized.
Countering their assertions, Sweden’s speaker pointed out that the Secretary-General has engaged in transparent consultations with regional groups on this matter since 2022. For months, he engaged openly and no alternative candidate was proposed, the representative of the United States echoed, stressing that the Russian Federation’s draft seeks to undermine the Secretary-General’s authority.
The draft decision is not only obstructive to Ms. Andersen, who has demonstrated strong leadership as UNEP’s current Executive Director, but also undermines an effective United Nations, Canada’s delegate added. “This politicization of the UN Executive Director position exemplifies what is wrong with us at the moment: our collective inability to serve our citizens — that we would rather take every possible opportunity to throw a wrench into the works of the General Assembly, to cause mischief and to take away from our solemn obligations to ensure the efficient, effective and fair processes of representation of the United Nations,” he chided.
In other business, the Assembly also adopted without a vote a draft resolution which strongly encouraged Member States and other stakeholders to integrate education for democracy into their education standards and called on them to work with relevant stakeholders to close digital divides.
At the outset, it took note of a letter informing it that nine of its Member States — Comoros, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Lebanon, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan and Venezuela — are in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Mongolia, Iran, Denmark and Equatorial Guinea.
The General Assembly will reconvene on Monday, 6 February, at 10 a.m. to hear a briefing by the Secretary-General on his priorities for 2023 and take up his report on the Organization’s work.
Scale of Assessments for Apportionment of United Nations Expenses
Opening the meeting, the General Assembly took note of a 17 January letter addressed to its President from the Secretary-General (document A/77/702) informing the Assembly of the nine Member States — Comoros, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Lebanon, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan and Venezuela — in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter.
Education for Democracy
The representative of Mongolia, introducing the draft resolution entitled “Education for Democracy” (document A/77/L.44), recalled that his delegation initiated this biennial resolution in 2012 on the basis of its strong belief in the mutually reinforcing link between education and democracy. Noting several rounds of informal consultations conducted in a transparent manner, he said the text was enriched with several proposals from Member States. The draft has important language that calls on Member States to work with relevant stakeholders to take steps to close the digital divides and promote digital inclusion by addressing the challenges associated with access, affordability, digital literacy and digital skills, he said. Further, it contains updates, including references to the Transforming Education Summit of September 2022 as well as its pre-summit in Paris, he said, thanking the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its support.
The Assembly then adopted that text without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly strongly encouraged Member States and other stakeholders to integrate education for democracy, along with civic education, human rights education and education for sustainable development, into their education standards. It also called upon Member States to work with relevant stakeholders to take steps to close the digital divides, including the rural-urban, youth-older persons and gender digital divides.
The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of vote, pointed out that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Incheon Declaration adopted during the World Education Forum 2015 and UNESCO’s Education 2030 Agenda are non-legally binding and voluntary. His country is not committed to the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action in any way which contradicts national laws and policies as well as Islamic and religious principles, norms and values, he stressed, adding that national programmes and instruments are considered the main references for action. He then dissociated himself from preambular paragraphs 5 and 11 and from operative paragraph 4.
Election of Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme
The representative of the Russian Federation, stressing his country’s support for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and its work on the environmental pillar of sustainable development, voiced his disappointment over the lack of consensus regarding the presentation of an Executive Director candidate for that Programme. Some Member States, he underscored, are trying to present the current situation as though the Russian Federation is dissatisfied with UNEP and is acting in relation to the subject of Ukraine. In calling on those States not to narrow the scope of the problem, he pointed out that his Government has long been concerned about UNEP’s work and its bias in favour of its largest donor countries well before the special military operation in Ukraine. UNEP has been monopolized by the representatives of Western countries, with six of its seven Executive Directors in the past 30 years coming exclusively from that regional group, he explained. Despite his country’s appeals, the Secretary-General did not propose advancing candidates from other countries. An international civil servant, he continued, must be an honest broker and take into account the interests of all, including those suffering most from environmental degradation. Ms. Andersen, on the other hand, has openly advanced European environmental priorities and allowed herself to politicize the Programme’s work by moving the interests of developing countries to the backburner, he said before registering his objection to her candidacy.
He then introduced his country’s related draft decision (document A/77/L.47), stressed how unfair it is that other countries could not participate by presenting candidates and requested other delegations to provide their support. The Russian Federation, he noted, does not intend to put forward a candidate and is acting purely in the interest of developing countries. As there is still time before the end of Ms. Andersen’s current term, it is fairest to return to the question of elections after conducting a transparent competition, he urged.
Speaking in explanation of position before vote, the representative of Denmark requested a recorded vote on the draft, while stressing his country’s strong support for the principle of equal geographical distribution of staff. While Ms. Andersen happens to be Danish, that was not the reason for the request for a vote on this draft, he said, adding that what is at stake is not just the continuity of the strong leadership at UNEP, but also the authority of the Secretary-General and the integrity of established reappointment procedures. During the Secretary-General’s consultations before her nomination, it was clear that Ms. Andersen had broad support among Member States and no credible objections were made to her merits or achievements, he noted. Further, her reappointment has followed all the rules and procedures; therefore, there is no legitimate reason to question it, he said, encouraging delegates to vote against the draft decision.
The representative of Sweden said that the European Union and its member States support the proposal to renew Ms. Andersen’s mandate. The Secretary-General has engaged in transparent consultations with regional groups on this matter since October 2022, she noted. Ms. Andersen’s work has been widely supported by the Organization’s membership and no alternative candidates have been proposed, she continued, before describing “L.47” as an attempt to disrupt UNEP’s leadership and undermine the Secretary-General’s authority. All Member States must reject “L.47” to protect the integrity of UNEP, the United Nations system as a whole and the Secretary-General’s authority, she urged. She then reiterated the European Union’s strong support of the equitable geographical distribution of staff across the United Nations system. She also welcomed the nomination of Elizabeth Maruma Mrema (United Republic of Tanzania) as UNEP’S Deputy Executive Director.
The representative of the United States, stressing that the Russian Federation’s draft seeks to undermine the Secretary-General’s authority, voiced support for the long-standing practice of electing the Secretary-General’s nominee. Also welcoming the appointment of Elizabeth Maruma Mrema of the United Republic of Tanzania as Deputy Executive Director, she said that for months the Secretary-General consulted with regional groups openly and transparently, and no alternative candidate was proposed at that time. She also pointed to Ms. Andersen’s strong leadership of UNEP and highlighted her commitment to increasing geographical diversity at that Programme through recruitment initiatives.
The representative of Canada expressed his deep regret over the unjustified attempt to prevent the renewal of Ms. Andersen’s mandate. His Government is proud to strongly support her reappointment, which would, in ordinary circumstances, be completely uncontroversial and in line with past practice of allowing Executive Directors to serve two consecutive terms. In thanking and commending Ms. Andersen, he highlighted her work in fulfilling UNEP’s mandate and ensuring that the environment portfolio remains a top priority for the United Nations and its Member States. “L.47”, he stressed, is obstructive to someone who has demonstrated strong leadership and it directly undermines the Secretary-General as the Organization’s head. The Secretary-General engaged in transparent consultations with all regional groups since October 2022 and no alternative candidate had been suggested by any regional group, he detailed. While his Government supports all efforts to ensure inclusivity and diversity, it will not allow this issue to stop the process of nominating Ms. Andersen, he pledged. He then urged all Member States to support her reappointment and object to the attempts to undermine an effective United Nations. “This politicization of the UN Executive Director position exemplifies what is wrong with us at the moment: our collective inability to serve our citizens — that we would rather take every possible opportunity to throw a wrench into the works of the General Assembly, to cause mischief and to take away from our solemn obligations to ensure the efficient, effective and fair processes of representation of the United Nations,” he said.
The representative of Belarus stressed that UNEP must be outside the political ambitions of Member States and must take into account the ambitions of the entire developing world. In emphasizing the principle of fair geographical representation, she said her country is in favour of opening up the call for candidates to serve as Executive Director and underscored that “L.47” will ensure transparency and regional participation.
The Assembly then rejected that text by a recorded vote of 13 in favour to 77 against, with 63 abstentions.
The representative of Equatorial Guinea said his delegation’s vote was not recorded. The Chair said this was due to that countrzy’s name being on the list of Member States in arrears to the Organization.
In light of the objections raised regarding Ms. Andersen’s re-election, the Assembly proceeded to an election by secret ballot. By a vote of 136 in favour with 31 abstentions, it elected Ms. Andersen (Denmark), who obtained the required majority of votes, as UNEP’s Executive Director for a term of four years, beginning on 15 June 2023 and ending on 14 June 2027.
The results of the voting were as follows:
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Inger Andersen (Denmark)
Source: United Nations