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EU priorities at the United Nations and the Seventieth United Nations General Assembly (September 2015 - September 2016)

Summary: 22 June 2015, Luxembourg - At its meeting on 22 June 2015, the Council adopted the EU Priorities at the United Nations and the Seventieth United Nations General Assembly.


The EU's commitment to multilateralism stems from its values and beliefs as enshrined in its treaty:

The European Union "shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter."

As the United Nations celebrates its seventieth anniversary, having such a multilateral organisation is more relevant and more needed than ever. Yet, a multitude of challenges to the international order persist. The world needs a strong and effective United Nations at the heart of the multilateral system to address those challenges.

Recognising the importance of the United Nations at the core of effective multilateralism, the European Union and its Member States*, for the duration of the 70th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, will strongly focus on the issues under the following headings:

a) A Safer World  
b) Our Common Future  
c) Effective Multilateralism 


A Safer World

The threats the world faces have never been so complex and range from inter-state conflicts to complex multi-factional intra-state conflicts with regional spill over. They require timely, articulated responses. The number of regional and global actors has multiplied, including - increasingly - non-state actors.

Current threats and challenges to international peace and security also require a strong focus on a preventive approach, so that early warning translates into prompt action. The European Union works to promote a culture of prevention within the UN system, including the Security Council, in order to improve its capacity to respond to emerging crises and potential threats to peace and security, paying close attention to risk factors and the deep-lying causes of conflicts.

Past failures, as well as successes, must serve as lessons for the future. 2015 will see the tenth anniversary of the 2005 World Summit that inter alia prepared the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the Peacebuilding Commission and enshrined the principle of the Responsibility to Protect.

The European Union will work to ensure that atrocity prevention will remain high on the international agenda. We welcome the United Nations' "Human Rights up Front" initiative as an important element of the UN’s efforts to strengthen early warning systems, such as the “Framework of Analysis for the Prevention of Mass Atrocities”, and prevent atrocities and enhance the responsiveness of the United Nations and the international community at large in such situations. In this context, the UN should continue to play a critical role assisting countries in the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect. The European Union should continue to support the efforts to further the operationalisation of the Responsibility to Protect.

The EU supports the objectives of the UN initiative of the Alliance of Civilisations and, bearing in mind the four pillars of the UNAOC, will continue to support the Alliance’s delivery of substantive projects with cross-cultural band.

1. Peace and Security Related Reviews

The UN is engaged in important peace and security related reviews. The European Union will support the strengthening of the coherence, synergies and complementarities between the reviews of peace operations, of the UN peacebuilding architecture and of UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The outcome of the reviews should be bold in ambition and propose concrete steps to enhance effectiveness.

The review of UN peace operations should provide operational recommendations to adapt the UN peace and security architecture to the evolving environment and improve its overall effectiveness. The UN needs to adapt its response to crises that have become ever more complex and increasingly involve a large number of non-state actors. UN peace operations need to be equipped with clear, coherent, concise and achievable mandates that include a human rights component. Promoting respect for human rights is an essential part of conflict prevention and of the work of peace operations. Transition arrangements should be explored early on. The security-development human rights nexus is critical to achieve long-lasting and sustainable stability. The review should pay particular attention to the increasing role of regional organisations in international peace and security interventions. The UN increasingly operates missions with regional organisations, such as AMISOM and UNAMID. The review should look into ensuring that the distribution of objectives and tasks among organisations maximises the impact on the ground.

Even the most successful peace operations cannot substitute political processes. Preventive efforts, properly deployed at an early stage of a conflict should also ensure the most efficient use of human, political and financial resources. This should include the full use of the Secretary General’s good offices, the early deployment of UN Special Political Missions, mediation efforts, confidence-building measures, UN peacebuilding tools and public diplomacy, as well as military and civilian peace operations, including Security Sector Reform.

The EU welcomes the broad approach for the 2015 Peacebuilding Review, going beyond the UN Peacebuilding Architecture and taking into account general developments in policy frameworks and operational responses since 2005 in support of peacebuilding efforts. The EU encourages the review to make bold, concrete and focused recommendations to improve the architecture and to ensure effective, well-coordinated and complimentary peacebuilding efforts throughout the UN system, enhancing its effectiveness and impact in countries that emerge from conflict, on the basis of experiences and lessons learnt. The EU also encourages the review to maximize the potential and added value of the Peacebuilding Commission.

We are committed to ensuring the promotion of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, both internally and in relations with third countries. Since UNSCR 1325 was adopted, the international community has undertaken substantial efforts to implement it and undeniable progress has been made. Numerous challenges remain. Grave abuses and violence against women, including sexual violence and rape, continue to be a common occurrence in conflict and post-conflict settings. There is a need to integrate structurally the gender perspective in all stages, elements and instruments of the peace and security agenda. The EU will continue to give a high priority to efforts to increase the participation of women in decision-making in conflict, and inclusion of women’s interests, in all aspects of peacebuilding.

2. Non-proliferation and Disarmament

The risk of weapons of mass destruction getting into the hands of non-State actors and terrorist groups, makes it expedient to support UN efforts to prevent non-State actors and terrorist groups from developing, acquiring, manufacturing, possessing, transporting such weapons, and their delivery systems. The EU will work towards better implementation of UNSC Resolution 1540 and will actively contribute to its Comprehensive Review, which must be completed in 2016.

The EU will continue to promote the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament in accordance with Article VI of the NPT, and an important element in the further development of nuclear energy applications for peaceful uses. Furthermore, the EU considers the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to be of crucial importance to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and its entry into force remains a top priority for the European Union.

The EU has been an active supporter of the principles of greater responsibility and transparency in arms trade. We will promote the universalisation and full implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and support the implementation of the outcome of the First Conference of States Parties. The EU will also support the UN instruments aimed at preventing, combating and eradicating the diversion and the illicit trade of SALW and their ammunitions. The EU has developed a comprehensive response to overcome the threats posed by the illicit accumulation and trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons and their ammunition.

The EU has longstanding position in favour of the preservation of a safe and secure space environment and peaceful uses of outer space. We will promote multilateral negotiations of an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities as a Transparency and Confidence Building Measure in Outer Space Activities.

The EU will promote the importance of the full implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and its universalisation in the UNGA context. The EU will promote the full implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), its universalisation and national implementation and the EU positions in this regard, also in view of the 8th Review Conference of the BTWC in 2016.

3. Counter Terrorism

The EU will further promote the key role of the UN in multilateral counter terrorism cooperation.

The UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy contains a complete set of measures which must be implemented in its entirety. The EU suggests that both the strategy and review process are fully reconsidered, including through regular needs assessment reports. This should ensure that the UN responds timely and adequately to the ever changing nature and threat of terrorism and violent extremism as posed by Da'esh, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram etc. The EU is ready to play an active role in this respect and will continue to actively support third countries in their efforts to implement the Strategy. The 10th anniversary of the Strategy in 2016 will be a reminder that it does not only include law enforcement and other security measures, but also measures to ensure protection for human rights and to address underlying conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, such as prolonged unresolved conflicts and social, economic and political marginalisation.

Da'esh poses a threat to the international community and in particular to the stability of the Middle East and North Africa. The EU reiterates its support to the initiatives aimed at its eradication. The fight against Da'esh and other terrorist groups must be conducted in parallel with the search for lasting political solutions in the regions concerned. The EU supports the active role of the UN in facilitating such political solutions.

The EU reiterates its strong support for UN Security Council Resolutions, in particular 2170 and 2178, and calls on all countries to take the necessary measures to ensure their swift implementation with full respect of human rights and the Rule of Law. We will continue to cooperate with UN and relevant agencies in capacity building initiatives addressing Foreign Terrorist Fighters and countering violent extremism. To further strengthen bilateral cooperation, the EU holds bi-annually a CT political dialogue with the UN including all its relevant agencies working on counter-terrorism.

The EU promotes the rule of law at the national and international levels, access to justice, accountable and transparent institutions, inclusive and participatory decision-making, corruption-free societies and international cooperation to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime.

The EU encourages UN efforts in strengthening the coordination of relevant UN bodies and initiatives especially CTITF, CTED, UN Counter-Terrorism Centre, 1540 Committee, 1267 Committee and others to increase the effectiveness in countering terrorism and violent extremism especially in the implementation of the UN CT Strategy. The EU supports the efforts of the Secretary General and the General Assembly to more effectively address the conditions conducive to terrorism in particular on prevention and countering violent extremism.

The EU promotes close cooperation of the UN with - and its involvement in - other multilateral counter terrorism initiatives, in particular the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.


Our Common Future

This year we must seize the opportunity to take important decisions that will shape the world of future generations.

The EU is committed to achieving a comprehensive post 2015 framework, strongly engage on climate change and further strengthen the multilateral human rights framework.

4. Post 2015

2015 is a crucial year in order to put in place a truly integrated sustainable global agenda, building upon the MDGs and the Rio vision.

It will be a complex agenda, linking all pillars of the UN's work. The agenda will have to be implemented by all - "developed" and "developing" countries and "emerging economies" alike - and therefore also by the EU in our internal and external policies.

The EU is strongly committed to achieving a transformative new framework which integrates poverty eradication and sustainable development with peaceful and stable societies, in its three dimensions and encompasses also human rights, rule of law, good governance, gender equality and environmental sustainability. We need an ambitious agenda, which should be truly integrated and universal, with all countries and stakeholders playing their full part.

The outcomes of the events in Addis Ababa (Financing for Development), New York (post 2015 summit), and Paris (UNFCCC COP 21) will guide our joint efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development. The outcomes of the three processes should strengthen and highlight synergies and co-benefits between poverty eradication and sustainable development including climate change.

The priority given to post 2015 work will extend beyond the September Summit when implementation of the agenda will start. A key area of work will be to establish and implement a strong monitoring, accountability and review framework, which should be an integral part of the post 2015 agenda. The UN, especially the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, will have an important role to play. We also support the roadmap of the UN Statistical Commission for the development of a global indicators framework which foresees providing a proposal for a global indicator framework by March 2016.

Among the global trends that will have large-scale and complex impacts on the post-2015 agenda, migration provides an example of an issue which needs to be managed in a comprehensive way. Efforts must also be enhanced to prevent irregular migration, including the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking, in particular by combating criminal networks. The EU recalls that enhanced coherence and coordination is required between the external and internal dimensions of migration policy and the development and external affairs agendas in order to better address the challenges and opportunities presented by migration.

5. Climate Change

As acknowledged by world leaders at the 2014 UN Climate Summit "climate change is a defining issue of our time and bold action is needed today to reduce emissions and build resilience".

We seek a fair, ambitious and legally-binding agreement on climate, applicable to all, that covers both mitigation and adaptation. It should include ambitious mitigation commitments, strong rules for holding all Parties accountable for their commitments, provisions for regular review and strengthening of Parties' greenhouse gas reduction commitments over time. It also should facilitate a transition to a low carbon and resilient economy, taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable. Enhanced attention should be paid to the situation of the SIDS (Small Island Developing States), as they are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The implementation of COP21 outcomes should follow swiftly.

We see the need for all Parties to consider how to enhance global pre-2020 mitigation (parties, stakeholders, private sector, international organisations, and bodies under the UNFCCC). Existing pledges and initiatives must be implemented and strengthened, while, at the same time, other policy options and initiatives in areas with high mitigation potential should be explored. The EU remains committed to scaling up the mobilisation of climate finance in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency of implementation, in order to contribute our fair share of the developed countries' goal to jointly mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 from a wide variety of sources public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.

At the same time, the EU recalls the importance of international aviation and maritime transport in terms of climate. Timely and ambitious outcomes in both ICAO and IMO are a must.

An ambitious agreement will undeniably support the sustainable development agenda, as climate change exacerbates threats, thus reversing positive trends and mounting costs of resilience. Actions to cut greenhouse gas emissions can improve economic performance, spur investments, create jobs and have positive co-benefits such as health and energy security. Climate change impacts are not only detrimental to the environment, but undermine development and human rights, increase poverty, and endanger livelihoods. In already fragile and conflict-prone countries, climate change adds a layer of complexity to existing humanitarian, development, and security challenges acting as an additional stress factor or risk multiplier.

6. Human Rights and International Law

The EU will continue to reaffirm and strengthen the role and work of the United Nations human rights bodies. The EU will closely cooperate with all countries to this end and participate actively in the General Assembly's Third Committee session as well as other relevant meetings. We will continue to firmly support and defend the independence and integrity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As in previous years, the EU will raise its concerns and contribute to debates; it will pursue thematic and country-specific initiatives.

As the world's vital forum for international action in this field, the UN must prevent and respond to human rights violations and abuses, and fight persistent discrimination and violence. To this end, the EU continues to support all efforts to mainstream human rights across the United Nations' work, including in development, and peace and security. The EU will continue to bring grave country situations to the UN and will ensure that they are addressed in the strongest terms, demanding accountability and ending impunity.

The EU continues to strongly support the International Criminal Court. In this context, the EU believes that more attention should be given to strengthening and expanding the relationship between the ICC and the UN, in particular UN Security Council. While the primary responsibility for bringing offenders to justice lies with states themselves, the ICC should exercise its jurisdiction where national authorities are unable or unwilling to genuinely prosecute the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

Given restrictions of fundamental freedoms worldwide, the EU will uphold freedom of opinion and expression online and offline as a fundamental human right and cornerstone of democracy and peace. The EU will continue to speak out at the UN against intimidation and harassment, persecution and inhuman punishment of journalists and other media actors as well as human rights defenders and civil society representatives more broadly. The EU will continue to ensure that multilateral fora remain open and safe spaces for these actors, and will speak out against any reprisal targeting those who cooperate with the UN human rights bodies.

The EU will also continue to advocate for Freedom of Religion or Belief and will urge greater efforts to protect the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities.

The EU will also pursue efforts to put an end to torture, and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. The EU will continue to foster international cooperation to address current challenges, including against the trafficking in human beings, which is a grave human rights violation and a severe form of organised crime. Following the strong cross-regional vote for the resolution on a moratorium on executions at UNGA 69, the EU will continue to support the work of the UN towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

The EU will continue to promote the rights of the child. Noting the 50th anniversary of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in December 2015, the EU reaffirms its strong opposition against all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. The EU will continue to work against all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism.

7. Protecting the Humanitarian Space

The humanitarian space has for several years been exposed to increased politicisation and restrictions on the ability of humanitarian actors to operate. This is illustrated, inter alia, by the blatant disregard of International Humanitarian Law, deliberate attacks on humanitarian workers, and access restrictions on humanitarian delivery.

The EU will continue to support the leading role of the UN in the coordination and delivery of international humanitarian assistance as well as continue to advocate for the respect of the humanitarian principles, International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and Refugee Law.

As the first global, multi-stakeholder gathering on humanitarian issues - bringing together UN and non-UN humanitarian actors, states, regional organisations, and civil society - the 2016 Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit, will be an opportunity to address some of the challenges the humanitarian sector is facing today. The EU will aim at reconfirming the humanitarian acquis while seeking ways to strengthen and adapt the humanitarian system to the changing circumstances as well as broaden its support base. Given the summit's inclusive nature, the EU will continue to advocate that the current UNGA session does not prejudge the outcome of the Summit.

Discussions on humanitarian financing are an integral part of the wider process of strengthening the UN and the humanitarian system. The EU looks forward to the report of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing.

8. Gender Issues

Twenty years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action the EU is ever more engaged, in partnership with UN agencies, in the advancement of gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, ensuring the realisation of the human rights of women and girls. The forthcoming Global Women's Summit will aim to enhance the implementation of the Platform for Action, promote new political commitments in achieving post-2015 agenda in women development and to find new financial support.

We remain committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the ICPD and the outcomes of their review conferences and remain committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights, in this context. The time is now to intensify actions and measures to ensure the full and accelerated implementation and renew and strengthen commitments, in particular in the areas where progress has been slower.

The empowerment and human rights of women and girls, ending both discrimination in all its forms and all forms of violence against women and girls, must be at the core of the post-2015 agenda, as these are essential elements for progress on poverty eradication and sustainable development, as well as in post-conflict situations.

9. Cyber Issues – Maintaining an Open, Free and Secure Cyberspace

This year we engage in a number of parallel cyber related processes at the UN that will have an impact on the future of cyberspace.

The European Union reaffirms its position that existing international law, notably the UN Charter and international humanitarian and human rights law, applies to cyberspace. The EU is committed to exploring the development of norms for responsible behaviour in cyberspace as well as implementing confidence-building measures to help avoid misperceptions and miscalculations and thereby increase stability and prevent the risk of conflict. We emphasise the need for international cooperation to reduce these risks and reaffirm the central role of the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security in cyberspace, including the significant contribution of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.

In this fast developing area it is important that we stay true to our fundamental values and ensure that those are promoted and protected online as they are offline. It is also important that we safeguard the flexible and innovation friendly multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance that has enabled the Internet and other ICT's to develop so rapidly since its inception. The European Union will stand firm on the principle that no single entity, company, organisation or government should be allowed to control the Internet.
The European Union is fully committed to the success of the WSIS+10 review process. It builds on the inclusive preparatory work of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development, UNESCO, the ITU, the Internet Governance Forum as well as other events, such as the outcome of the Netmundial multi-stakeholder meeting in Sao Paulo and of the 2015 global conference on cyberspace in The Hague, to which all stakeholders have contributed. The EU emphasises the importance of access to and use of open and secure ICTs for enabling economic growth and innovation, accelerating progress and driving political, social and economic development worldwide. The WSIS process has a key role in fostering the use of ICTs for development and should remain focused on this issue.

The European Union sees continued need to work actively on the promotion and protection of human rights online, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression, through both the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council.


Effective Multilateralism

10. UN Reform and Increased Efficiency

The EU supports the notion that the United Nations must be 'fit for purpose' as well as increasingly more effective and efficient. Emerging and growing challenges impel new functions for the UN, which will in turn require a rethink of governance and funding modalities. It will continue to be an EU priority to ensure the sound management of UN financial resources and staff, including in the negotiations of the next UN regular budget and UN peacekeeping budgets.

We promote the reform of the UN system and of its bodies and organs to make it more fit to address the complex, multi-sectoral challenges we face today. This should include the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council as well as the revitalisation of the work of the General Assembly. An improved coordination and coherence of the action of all UN Institutions should enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, accountability, capacity and representativeness of the system. Enhancing public knowledge on the three UN pillars of work and EU priorities related to them is also of outmost importance.

We will see a number of important UN conferences over the next year. The EU will work towards successful outcomes of these conferences and high level meetings striving for concise, focused, forward-looking, and action-oriented results. We will consistently support open and inclusive meetings to ensure the effective participation of civil society, the private sector and all other concerned stakeholders.

The various review processes as well as reflections on lessons learnt during recent crises should lead to concrete efforts to make the organisation as fit as possible. The European Union fully supports and engages in the exercises on lessons learnt from the Ebola outbreak for the UN wide system, in order to prepare better at global level for the next crisis. The conclusions drawn will have to be taken seriously.

11. Strengthening Multilateral Partnerships

Chapter VIII of the UN Charter explicitly recognises and encourages the regional arrangements in dealing with matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security. The EU recalls its commitment to regional partnerships.

Regional partners play a key role, notably the Arab League, the OSCE, the African Union, regional interlocutors in Latin America, in the Caribbean, and in Asia. Multi-layered partnerships will be the only possible foundation of the future global security agenda. We promote regional integration as a means to support peace and prosperity around the world and to overcome conflicts between nations. In this vein, it supports the capacity-building efforts of regional organisations to contribute to peace in their regions, with financial means and relevant expertise.

The EU welcomes the recent UN Secretary General's report on partnering for peace and the new paradigm of 'partnership peacekeeping' in the global security architecture. We will increasingly rely on multi-layered and multi-faceted actions throughout the various stages of conflicts and a stronger cooperation with – and among – regional organisations is needed in all phases. The EU encourages the UN to further develop the concept and stands ready to engage within the framework of established cooperation mechanisms such as the high level EU-UN steering committee on crisis management but also through ad hoc arrangements.

The EU recalls the added value of common approaches between the EU, the UN and the AU in Africa, and the interest in strong trilateral cooperation as we face the immediate challenges and build capacities to address underlying causes of conflict in a comprehensive and long term perspective. Our cooperation in Somalia, Mali, the Central African Republic or the Democratic Republic of Congo clearly illustrates this added value.

Annex - Statement by Malta

"The achievement and promotion of gender equality and the empowerment and human rights of women and girls, and the prevention and elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls in development cooperation, is of paramount importance to Malta.

In fulfilling its responsibilities nationally and internationally, Malta recalls its position that any recommendation or commitment made by the European Union related to Gender in Development should not in any way create an obligation on any party to consider abortion as a legitimate form of reproductive health, rights, services or commodities."

*Throughout this document the use of 'EU' does not prejudge whether the competence lies with the 'EU, the EU and its Member States' or exclusively with 'Member States'.