Sunday, May 26

30 years ago, the CIS received observer status at the UN General Assembly

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Cooperation between the Commonwealth of Independent States and the United Nations has a long history, being an important factor in international relations aimed at economic and humanitarian development, maintenance of peace and security.A significant impetus to the development of cooperation between these two international organisations was given by granting the Commonwealth observer status at the UN General Assembly (UNGA, 24 March 1994) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, 19 April 1994).

And on 24 May 1996, the CIS Charter was registered with the UN Secretariat.

The observer status at the UN allows the CIS to take part in the work of the UN General Assembly, as well as to establish interaction with numerous UN structures, other international organisations and states. This significantly expands the CIS’s ability to express and defend the interests and positions of its member countries in the international arena.

At the same time, the granting of this status indicates broad recognition of the Commonwealth as a full-fledged regional association and a subject of international law, making its independent contribution to global processes such as the preservation of peace and security, the protection of human rights and the promotion of sustainable development.

Every two years, a UNGA resolution on cooperation between the UN and the CIS is adopted within the framework of the UN General Assembly session (first adopted on 11 November 2014 during the 69th session of the UNGA at the initiative of the Commonwealth countries; the last one – within the framework of the 77th session of the UNGA on 21 November 2022).

During the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States on 12 April 2024 in Minsk, a Statement was adopted in connection with the 30th anniversary of granting the CIS observer status at the UN General Assembly.

In this document, the foreign ministers called for further deepening of cooperation and coordination of efforts between the Commonwealth of Independent States and the United Nations, their executive bodies, UN specialised agencies and specialised structures of the CIS. The document stresses the readiness to expand the fruitful interaction between the two organisations by deepening and intensifying existing contacts and establishing new areas of joint work in order to maintain international peace and security, inter-ethnic harmony and promote economic and social progress.

As noted above, the regular resolutions of the UNGA on ‘Cooperation between the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Independent States’ give a purposeful character to the interaction of UN specialised agencies with the CIS. On the part of the CIS, in turn, this work is carried out in accordance with the annual orders of the Executive Committee on the Plan of Cooperation between the CIS Executive Committee and the working (executive) bodies of international organisations, as well as the memorandums, protocols and agreements concluded.

In the course of the multilevel inter-midvice consultations within the CIS, held in accordance with the Plan, with a view to strengthening the positions of the CIS countries on the world stage and developing coordinated approaches to solving global problems, the issues of coordinating the positions of the CIS member States, their priorities and initiatives during the forthcoming sessions of the UNGA, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, mutual support for candidates for elections to limited UN bodies, and cooperation between the CIS member States within the framework of the UN General Assembly, are considered.

The elaboration of common positions provides substantial assistance to the Commonwealth countries in their work in relevant multilateral platforms, including UNGA committees and UN specialized agencies, within the framework of UN programmes, regional commissions of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), working bodies of international conventions and others.

The CIS and the UN co-operate in various areas, such as economic development, environmental protection, humanitarian issues, combating terrorism and extremism.

In the field of economy, the Commonwealth has significant co-operation with two of the five ECOSOC regional commissions – the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Both the CIS Executive Committee and the Commonwealth’s sectoral co-operation bodies maintain direct working contacts with these commissions. It is indicative, for example, that in order to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a Memorandum of Understanding and a Joint Action Plan were signed between the CIS Electric Power Council and ESCAP.

Among the UN agencies and programmes and global organisations focusing on economic development issues, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) are important for the Commonwealth as a whole and its individual participants. The CIS International Aviation Committee and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the Regional Commonwealth in the field of communications and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and a number of other structures work in close contact in the sectoral sphere.

The humanitarian agenda occupies a central place in the Commonwealth’s activities. In this context, the CIS member States are highly active in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The main aspects of coordination of interaction between the Commonwealth countries within UNESCO cover the topics of mutual support of candidates for elections to the governing and subsidiary bodies of the organisation and strengthening interaction between the National Commissions of the CIS Member States.

Thus, on 22 April 2024, Moscow hosted inter-Midovan consultations on the theme ‘On Cooperation of the CIS Member States within UNESCO’. The participants of the meeting discussed the issues of coordination of the CIS countries’ activities in UNESCO, including joint initiatives on this platform, exchanged views on the results of the 219th session of the Executive Board of UNESCO, the experience of establishing and organising the work of UNESCO programme and regional committees, considered the issue of preparation for the 46th session of the World Heritage Committee.

Special attention was paid to the strengthening of cooperation in UNESCO network formats (Associated Schools, Chairs, Biosphere Reserves, Global Geoparks, Creative and Learning Cities).

Cooperation between CIS and WHO is also multidimensional. It is particularly relevant in the light of global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which emphasised the need for coordinated action and exchange of experience in the field of public health. WHO, being one of the largest specialised agencies of the UN system, supports CIS countries in achieving health-related sustainable development goals. Joint efforts are directed towards the development and implementation of programmes and initiatives to combat communicable and non-communicable diseases, improve health systems and enhance the quality of health care. WHO also actively participates in humanitarian missions and provides assistance in cases of natural disasters and emergencies in Commonwealth countries.

An Interstate Commission on interaction with WHO was established in 2017 within the framework of the CIS Health Co-operation Council. In 2021, the Memorandum on deepening interaction between the Health Cooperation Council and the WHO Regional Office for Europe, signed in 1996, was updated, according to which annual meetings of the heads of the two structures are held.

Experts from the WHO Regional Office for Europe traditionally take part in meetings of the Council’s working bodies on the development of electronic health care, the fight against diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis, particularly dangerous diseases and oncological diseases.

It should be noted that in the course of the working meeting held on 13 July 2023 in Minsk and devoted to discussion of the issues of interaction between the CIS and WHO on the development of e-health and cross-border telemedicine consultations, both parties stated their interest in further development of cooperation in the field of health care.

On topical issues of international security, the cooperation of the relevant CIS bodies with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and structures coordinating the countering of the global terrorist threat is productive. During the UN Security Council meeting on co-operation in the fight against terrorism, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the CIS, CSTO and SCO are examples of active regional co-operation, which is why the UN is strengthening relations with each of them. He also highlighted the most important work of the CIS IPA to harmonise the anti-terrorist legislation of the organisation’s members, stressing that the fight against terrorism and extremism can only take place in the format of international cooperation.

In this context, it is worth noting the activities of the Anti-Terrorist Centre of the CIS Member States (ATC CIS), a permanent sectoral body designed to ensure coordination of cooperation between the competent authorities of the Commonwealth of Independent States in combating international terrorism and other violent manifestations of extremism.

The interaction between the CIS ATC and specialised international structures is multidirectional. The Centre acts as an information partner for leading international actors and participates in counter-terrorism conferences and seminars.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in 2018 was a logical outcome. The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the CIS APC and the UN, represented by its Counter-Terrorism Department.

Thanks to the signed document, both parties were able to initiate joint counter-terrorism projects and programmes to support the balanced implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, exchange information, conduct joint activities and consultations in the field of preventing and combating terrorism.

Earlier, in 2016. The CIS ATC became a member of the Global Research Network of the UNSC Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (UNCTC ED), and in 2021 the Centre joined the UN Global Expert Network on Protecting Vulnerable Targets from Terrorist Threats. CIS ATC staff are involved as regional experts in UNCTC ED visits to monitor and facilitate the implementation of UNSC counter-terrorism resolutions.

In general, the CIS observer status at the UN facilitates the active development by the Commonwealth of multi-level and diverse contacts with international and regional organisations, as well as its participation in key international efforts covering political, economic, humanitarian and global security issues.

CIS interaction with the UN is significant for strengthening the authority, position and influence of the Commonwealth in the world arena, solving common problems and developing relations with other major global and regional actors. The cooperation between the two organisations remains highly dynamic, the intensity of meetings and other events is growing, which confirms the existence of broad prospects for further enhancing the effectiveness of their joint work in the interests of peace and prosperity.

Information and Analytical Department
CIS Executive Committee


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