31 October 2011 â€“The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today voted to admit Palestine as a full member of the Paris-based agency.
UNESCOâ€™s General Conference, the agencyâ€™s highest ruling body, took the decision by a vote of 107 in favour to 14 against, with 52 abstentions, according to a news release.
The move brings the total number of UNESCO member States to 195.
â€œThe admission of a new member State is a mark of respect and confidence,â€ UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said following the vote. â€œThis must be an opportunity to strengthen the Organization and not weaken it, a chance for all to commit once again to the values we share and not to be divided.â€
Ms. Bokova voiced concern by the â€œpotential challengesâ€ that may arise to the universality and financial stability of UNESCO. â€œI am worried we may confront a situation that could erode UNESCO as a universal platform for dialogue. I am worried for the stability of its budget.
â€œIt is well-known that funding from our largest contributor, the United States, may be jeopardized,â€ she noted. â€œI believe it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that UNESCO does not suffer unduly as a result…
â€œUNESCOâ€™s work is too important to be jeopardized,â€ she stressed.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, asked about the UNESCO decision during a press conference in New York, said that it is up to Member States to ensure that the UN system as a whole has consistent political and financial support.
â€œAs such, we will need to work on practical solutions to preserve UNESCOâ€™s financial resources,â€ he stated.
He also emphasized once again the urgency of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stressing that the two-state solution is â€œlong overdue.â€
For its membership to take effect, Palestine must sign and ratify UNESCOâ€™s constitution, which is open for signature in the archives of the Government of the United Kingdom in London.
Admission to UNESCO for States that are not members of the UN requires a recommendation by the agencyâ€™s Executive Board and a two-thirds majority vote in favour by the General Conference.
The General Conference, which consists of the representatives of the States that are members of the agency, meets every two years, and is attended by member States and associate members, together with observers for non-member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
It is tasked with setting the programmes and the budget of UNESCO. It also elects the members of the Executive Board and appoints, every four years, the Director-General.
The current 36th session of the General Conference began on 25 October and will run through 10 November.
UNESCOâ€™s mission is to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.
The breakdown of the vote to admit Palestine as a full member state in UNESCO, was: “yes” (107), “no” (14), “abstention” (52) and “absent” (21).
No:Â Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, United States of America, Vanuatu.
Abstentions:Â Albania, Andorra, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cook Islands, CÃ´te dâ€™Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Georgia, Haiti, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liberia, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Switzerland, Thailand, Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zambia.
Yes:Â Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic Peopleâ€™s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador,Â EquatorialÂ Guinea, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao Peopleâ€™s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sant Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
Absent: Antigua and Barbuda, Central African Republic, Comoros, Dominica, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Madagascar, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Confederated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Niue, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan.
Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions
Statement of The Islamic of Republic of Afghanistan
Delivered by G. Seddiq Rasuli Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations
at the Third Committee
Agenda Item 62: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to thank Mr. Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for his reports under agenda item 62 and his in-depth statement this afternoon.
I further wish to take this opportunity to express my delegationâ€™s gratitude to the High Commissioner and dedicated staff of UNHCR for their commitment towards protection and assistance of the worldâ€™s most vulnerable population, the refugees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs), in particular, their special attention to the plight of Afghan refugees, returnees, and IDPs. We are grateful for that, Mr. High Commissioner.
Since 2002, more than 5.6 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan, the vast majority of which have returned from neighboring countries, Iran and Pakistan. This is an encouraging sign that the situation in Afghanistan is improving and Afghan refugees can once again return to their homeland and join their families. However, in spite of the progress made over the past ten years, much remains to be accomplished. The pace of repatriation has slowed substantially relative to previous years. This can be attributed to the dual threats of terrorism and insecurity, widespread poverty, and a challenging humanitarian situation. These have also increased the number of IDPs in the provinces that continue to see the highest levels of insecurity.
The Government of Afghanistan remains committed to providing for the voluntary, dignified and gradual repatriation and re-integration of our Afghan brothers and sisters who fled our boarders due to years of conflict and violence. Already 4.6 million refugees received aid and since 2005 the Afghan Government has constructed 60 townships in 20 provinces for refugees, and a further 39,000 have been provided with portions of land.
As the security situation improves and people gradually return to Afghanistan, the Government faces a significant challenge to provide adequate shelter, work and healthcare, this is becoming an increasing problem as more Afghans return, with the potential for increased refugee flows in the coming years as Afghanistan becomes more stable and secure. The Government of Afghanistan is strongly committed to do all we can to provide facilities for voluntary, dignified, and gradual repatriation.
We must not forget that security challenges and threats still remain a reality in Afghanistan and this poses a serious challenge to the sustainable repatriation of refugees. Between June 2009 and September 2010 alone 12,000 people were displaced as a result of insecurity, bringing the total number to over 319,000 Afghan citizens. We must continue our efforts with our international partners to secure Afghanistan for its citizens both inside and outside its borders.
As a result of this continued insecurity we face a reality in which 40% of refugees who have returned to Afghanistan have not been settled yet, where people are trying to return to their homeland seeking a prosperous future only to be faced with despair with the situation and return to their respective countries of refuge. We must work with the international community and UNHCR to seek out new ways and mechanisms to review our returneeâ€™s policy to find a way to provide shelter and easy access to primary services including health care education drinking water and importantly, work opportunities to ensure the sustainable repatriation of Afghans.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the Government of Afghanistan to our neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran for being the primary hosts of Afghan refugees for more than 30 years now; we are grateful for that. We have held constructive trilateral meetings with Iran and Pakistan along with UNHCR in May this year recognizing the need to find a comprehensive solution for sustainable voluntary, gradual, dignified repatriation of refugees.
In this regard, Afghanistan, with UNHCR, Pakistan and Iran, is presently developing a multi-year (2012-2014) solutions strategy for Afghan refugees. This strategy will be presented for endorsement by the international community at a stakeholders conference in early 2012.
I thank you Mr. Chairman.