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UNGA Vote on Gaza-Understanding how General Assembly Decides and India’s abstention

ANM Bureau

In response to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday approved a nonbinding resolution that called for a “humanitarian truce.” The aim of this truce is to bring about a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, marking the first UNGA response to the conflict.

The resolution, titled “Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations,” was proposed by Jordan on behalf of the Arab League and co-sponsored by approximately 40 countries. The UNGA voted on it, with 120 member states in favor, 14 against, and 45 abstentions.

Notably, a Canadian amendment that had the backing of the United States was rejected. The proposed amendment aimed to unequivocally condemn the “terrorist attacks” by Hamas on October 7 and demanded the immediate release of hostages taken by Hamas. However, the final resolution, as drafted by the Arab League, did not mention these specific incidents.

The 14 countries that voted against the resolution included Israel, the United States, five Pacific island nations, and four European countries—Austria, Croatia, Czechia, and Hungary, all of which are European Union members. In contrast, eight EU member countries voted in favor of the resolution.

The approved resolution condemns “all acts of violence aimed at Palestinian and Israeli civilians, including all acts of terrorism and indiscriminate attacks, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement, and destruction.” However, it does not explicitly reference the recent terror attacks by Hamas on October 7. This wave of attacks resulted in over 1,400 Israeli casualties and 229 hostages. During the three weeks of retaliatory strikes by the Israeli Defence Forces, it is estimated that at least 7,700 Palestinians were killed, with nearly half of the casualties being children.

Inner Workings of UNGA Voting

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) serves as a platform for member states to discuss and address global issues, and one of the key tools at its disposal is passing resolutions. Voting on resolutions in the UNGA is a crucial process that decides the collective stance of the international community on various matters. Here, we’ll delve into the inner workings of UNGA voting, using a past resolution as an example.

Understanding the UNGA Voting Process

  1. Drafting the Resolution: The process typically begins with a member state proposing a draft resolution. The resolution outlines the issue at hand, the proposed solution, and the action required from member states. It is then distributed to all member states.
  2. Committee Review: In many cases, the draft resolution is first examined in relevant UNGA committees. These committees discuss the draft, propose amendments, and sometimes merge similar resolutions to create a single document.
  3. Amendments: Member states can suggest amendments to the draft resolution. These amendments are debated and voted on individually. If accepted, they become part of the final text. If not, they are rejected.
  4. Plenary Session: The resolution, along with any accepted amendments, is presented in a plenary session of the UNGA. During this session, diplomats, or their representatives, express their views on the resolution.
  5. Voting: Cast Your Vote: The actual voting takes place in the plenary session. Each member state, regardless of size or influence, has one vote. Voting can be done through various means, including raising a hand, electronic systems, or secret ballots for sensitive matters.
  6. Counting the Votes: The votes are counted, and the result is announced. Resolutions are passed if they receive a two-thirds majority of the votes of member states present and voting.

In this way, the UNGA employs a structured process to decide on resolutions that address real, pressing global issues.

Understanding India’s abstention

India’s Deputy Permanent Representative, Yojana Patel, delivered the Explanation of Vote (EoV) on behalf of India. She called for the condemnation of the attacks and the immediate and unconditional release of hostages, emphasizing that “terrorism is a malignancy and knows no borders, nationality, or race.”

While addressing the casualties in Gaza caused by the Israeli Defence Forces, Patel expressed deep concern, highlighting the impact on civilians, especially women and children. India has also been involved in aiding Palestinians who were evacuated from North Gaza to the south.

Importantly, India’s EoV did not explicitly name Hamas, consistent with the resolution’s lack of direct reference to the group. However, India had supported an earlier amendment presented by Canada, which sought to unequivocally condemn the terrorist attacks by Hamas starting on October 7, 2023, and called for the release of hostages. Unfortunately, this amendment failed to gain approval, as it received support from fewer than two-thirds of the member states.

India’s abstention during this UNGA vote, differing from its past votes in favor of resolutions calling for ceasefires in Gaza, sparked criticism from opposition parties. They accused the government of “refusing to take a stand.” The criticism was based on the view that the situation in Gaza is a humanitarian issue rather than a political one.

Opposition leaders argued that India’s abstention put it in a solitary position, as it did not align with the stance of countries in the Global South, South Asia, and BRICS—all of which voted in favor of the resolution. They emphasized the importance of India taking a principled stand on humanitarian issues, invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s quote that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Despite the criticism, government sources defended India’s stance, reiterating its consistent support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue. India remains committed to the establishment of a sovereign, independent, and viable State of Palestine. The government urged both parties to de-escalate the violence and return to direct peace negotiations.

In conclusion, the recent UNGA vote on Gaza highlights the complexities of international diplomacy and the diversity of perspectives within the global community. India’s abstention serves as a reminder that striking a balance between political considerations and humanitarian concerns is a nuanced challenge in the realm of international relations.

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