PRESS CONFERENCE BY 60TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
13 September 2005
“The United Nations is a reflection of the world, and we can only get as far as the Member States are willing to go”, Jan Eliasson, President of the sixtieth General Assembly session, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.
“In fact, this is a bit of an awkward moment, because I had planned to see you after I had opened the General Assembly this morning”, he said. “But due to unforeseen circumstances -- I would call them force majeure-- the opening of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly has been delayed until later this afternoon.”
Referring to the draft outcome document for this week's Summit, he said that once finalized, it would form the basis for discussions and important deliberations on the issues of development, security, human rights and the reform of the United Nations.
Explaining his difficulty in answering detailed questions about the outcome document, he referred to the fact that negotiations were still continuing, the text had not yet been finalized and he was taking over from the fifty-ninth session of the Assembly –- “the results of President Ping’s labour”.
“Still, I would claim that this very, very ambitious reform proposal ... represents a major step for the United Nations”, he added. The Secretary-General and President Ping had set the bar very high and, even if there were some “deficiencies” that some people would claim, the fact that the high-level meeting now had a basis from where to work was important. While some would have liked to see “more of one issue or less of another”, with multilateral negotiations it was always important to compromise and find common language that could unite the great majority of Member States. There was a balance to be preserved between different elements, and he believed that was being done.
He was sure the Organization would “get new political energy from the world leaders that gather here and start their work tomorrow”, to go ahead and continue the reform efforts that were so necessary. “If they want to put a different emphasis or underline what they would like to see, that will be conveyed.”
He hoped that the high-level meeting would introduce two new realities to the General Assembly. One related to the aspirations, expectations and even dreams of the peoples of the world about the United Nations itself, and the second included such real problems as starving children, AIDS-stricken mothers, conflict-ridden areas and violations of human rights. That would give the Assembly much work to do during its sixtieth session -- probably more work than he had expected.
To several questions regarding the Millennium Development Goals, he said that the high-level meeting was basically about the five-year review of those goals. While there were those who would claim that it was not the idea of the text, he believed that it “kept the direction”. Yet, it was necessary to speed up the pace to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals.
The development chapter of the outcome document was the most extensive and detailed one. It spoke clearly about the very concrete Goals that had been set. There was recognition of the right to development, which used to be a controversial term. There were fewer problems than many had expected on such issues as debt reduction and even the goal of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) for official development assistance. There would be some discussions regarding the degree to which trade should be covered.
"Whatever document we now produce, the rate of progress is far too slow in order to achieve those goals”, he said, which included not only the objective of reducing extreme poverty by half, but also the goals on sanitation and water. For example, water that he could drink out of a glass in his hand was a luxury for 1.2 billion people in the world. He had seen the women in Somalia receive bottled water, where the alternative for them was to walk for two miles to get polluted water and even run a risk of being raped. Those were the realities that should be brought to the halls of the United Nations. “We may ask for a higher degree of ambition in the final document, but the realities are there, and we have to deal with those realities,” he said.
To other queries, he said that “nobody is one hundred per cent happy” with the final document, but it still addressed such important issues as a human rights council and the Secretariat reform. It welcomed the Secretary-General’s strategy and a time-bound goal of concluding a comprehensive convention on terrorism during the sixtieth session. It was sad that a conclusion could not be reached on disarmament and non-proliferation, but work on disarmament issues would continue.
The Assembly had a very ambitious agenda, and he hoped it would keep up the momentum. Work would continue, among other things, on making the peace building commission operational and how to establish the human rights council. Also on the agenda would be the Security Council reform. It had been decided that the time was not right to bring that matter to a vote. The issue required serious consideration, and he intended to use his ears more than his mouth during the session. It was necessary to take stock and decide what direction to take.
Responding to another question, he said the United Nations would have to deal with the issue of to what extent a country with very strong positions and isolated from others could prevent general consensus. In the United Nations’ long history, with many resolutions passed and not implemented, there had been a push back from the voting patterns. In fact, voting had been the rule in the 1970s, but later there was “a counter-reaction” that it was necessary to work by consensus.
He added that President Ping had made a very courageous step in the past hours, when there had been no movement on a number of issues, and strong positions had been taken by some countries. President Ping felt –- and President Eliasson supported him 100 per cent -- that he had come to the end of the road. Thus, he had come up with his own proposal “to cut the Gordian knot” and find a solution that the overwhelming majority of Member States could support.
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For information media • not an official record
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