Jason R. Mack
Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs
New York, New York
January 20, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President.
First and foremost, we would like to express our appreciation to the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee and the Secretariat for their efforts to find safe and inclusive methods for us to continue to undertake our important work.
The United States shares the frustration and disappointment expressed by many delegations today that the pandemic has yet again stymied our efforts to move forward in this process. We were prepared for the meeting this week, as scheduled, and would have considered a variety of formats acceptable to hold it on time. We did not want to postpone it.
We also must recognize the unique circumstances we are all currently facing, with many UN staff and fellow diplomats taken ill by COVID or isolating due to close exposure. Some of our friends and colleagues have gotten gravely sick. We cannot ignore that fact.
This Assembly just took the difficult decision to postpone the Fifth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries, a very important conference which helps to guide the UN’s work in support of LDCs’ economic development and only occurs once per decade, by consensus. Other important meetings, such as the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the meeting of the NGO Committee, have also been postponed. We have taken these hard decisions in recognition of current pandemic-related health and safety precautions.
It is unfortunate that some delegations seem to believe that such precautions only pertain to delaying the priorities of some and not all.
As we consider our next steps, we must not allow this setback to undermine the core values we hope all Member States share. We should set dates that ensure an inclusive schedule so that all Member States can contribute equally to this important work.
We trust the Chair and the Secretariat of the Ad Hoc Committee and of UN Headquarters when they tell us that there is not a block of physical meeting space available for a two-week period, with sufficient staffing, for a New York-based meeting to be held before our scheduled session in August. We also take them at their word that the UN is facing staffing challenges, given the pandemic conditions impacting all of us globally. For that reason, we support the Dominican Republic’s amendment, which is a technical proposal to begin substantive negotiations during
our planned meeting at the end of May in Vienna. Given the current limitations, this is the earliest possible time we can get started.
We recognize, however, the strong interest in beginning this process in New York and respect the delicate balance we struck in May on the location of each session. We also appreciate the Dominican Republic’s effort to take on board concerns expressed by Belarus in putting forward its amendment by orally revising the Dominican Republic’s proposal. We therefore welcome the Dominican Republic’s revision to allow for us to hold our first session earlier in New York, should health conditions and schedules allow.
We appreciate that the Dominican Republic has also specified a minimum length of time between sessions to guarantee that Member States have adequate time to contribute and prepare for each negotiation. This ensures an inclusive structure for our process while still allowing us to begin earlier than May if conditions in New York allow.
We, like everyone, would like to start negotiations earlier, as envisioned by the Belarusian amendment. However, realistically, we know that this is not possible given limitations presented by the pandemic and the UN’s schedule. When asked about the potential to hold an initial negotiation in New York in February or March, the Secretariat made clear that, after careful review of the calendar of conferences, it could not identify a two-week meeting slot. The Secretariat had not been asked about the possibility for such a meeting in April, but the answer is likely the same – hence the importance of including flexibility in today’s decision.
We cannot vote in favor of an unrealistic proposal that will only have us back in this room in a few months to again debate this process.
We need to start thinking about building the substance of our treaty, as opposed to our meeting schedule and other logistical details. Only the Dominican Republic’s proposal as orally revised will allow us to do that.
The United States will vote against the Belarussian amendment and urges all delegations to do so. We will also vote in favor of the Dominican Republic’s proposed amendment as the only feasible way forward. We call upon all delegations to join us in doing so.
We hope that after a path forward is established today, we can focus on an inclusive process where the voices of many will be listened to and heard. Only through such inclusivity can our future negotiations result in a treaty we can all support.