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PRESS CONFERENCE BY GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

19 December 2007

Srgjan Kerim, President of the sixty-second General Assembly, said today that he had succeeded, together with Member States, in making the 192-nation body more “dynamic” and laying the groundwork for crucial negotiations on such important issues as climate change, development financing and Security Council reform.

“We have made obvious and tangible progress in improving the working methods of the General Assembly, thus making it very dynamic and vital,” Mr. Kerim told reporters, recapping the Assembly’s work for the first part of the sixty-second session at a Headquarters press conference. Because the agenda had been so impressive and cooperation among Member States had been so inspired, he even believed there was no need to adopt the traditional draft resolution on “Assembly revitalization” this year.

Acknowledging that “intensive negotiations” were still under way, especially surrounding the 2008-2009 budget, he praised the more constructive, cooperative and receptive attitude among Member States demonstrated on key priorities he had set for the session: climate change; financing for development; the Millennium Development Goals; countering terrorism; and renewing the management, coherence and effectiveness of the Organization, including Security Council reform.

It was clear that “business as usual” was at an end. The challenges were just too pressing for the Assembly not to change the way it responded. He said that, throughout his tenure, thus far, he had encouraged Member States to change their mindsets and attitudes to help make the Assembly more central to the work of the United Nations and more capable of dealing effectively with the issues of the day.

He went on to highlight some examples of the renewed cooperation, noting that, during elections for non-permanent members of the Security Council, two States -- Czech Republic and Dominican Republic -- had withdrawn their candidacy in favour of Croatia and Costa Rica. Another excellent example was unfolding in the mandate review process, where proposals had recently been put forward by a broad grouping of Member States. He now thought progress would be made shortly on that “sensitive issue”.

Also characteristic of the work of the session had been the initiative shown by Member Stats in promoting important issues and drafting important resolutions for action by the Assembly. Kyrgyzstan, for example, had put forward a resolution on “social justice” that had been “adopted with the support of a broad majority of States”.

In addition, the Israeli-led resolution on “agricultural technology for development” had been approved by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial). He added that the plenary’s annual resolution on “assistance to the Palestinian people” had been adopted by consensus just two days ago, “which showed solidarity and good political will”, he said.

He stressed the good working relationship with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and added that the Assembly had also boosted its cooperation with the Secretariat by holding informal sessions with senior officials on climate change and, just yesterday, on Myanmar, with Ibrahim Gambari, Mr. Ban’s Special Adviser. That was a new practice that the Assembly would try to continue, in order to deal with other important and sensitive political issues that were also on the Security Council’s agenda, said Mr. Kerim.

Another of the ways in which he had hoped to make the Assembly more dynamic had been by holding more thematic debates and interactive panel discussions. Thus far, the world body had held such debates on the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Strategy, paving the way for the review of that action plan next September, as well as on financing for development while a debate on climate change is scheduled for next February. He added that thematic debates on two emerging issues -- human security and human trafficking -- were also being considered.

Here, he stressed that the Organization’ s broad-based approach to dealing with pressing international issues during the session had been bolstered by the active participation of civil society, including the business sector, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

Looking ahead, he said the outcome of last week’s Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Bali, had validated the decision to hold a thematic debate on the matter at Headquarters on 11 and 12 February. The event would feature two important panel discussions: on creating synergies and support for the post-Bali negotiating process; and on how United Nations agencies would play a role in that process. “This will be one of the highlights of the entire session,” he said, adding that the Assembly had adopted a resolution asking the Secretary-General to prepare a report on all United Nations activities in the area of climate change by 25 January.

He said very good work had been done so far in preparing for the review of the 2002 Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development, set to be held in Doha, Qatar next November. After the Assembly passed a procedural text, it would turn, in January, to start discussing the substance of the meeting. He also announced that, on 1 and 2 April, the Assembly would hold a thematic debate on the Millennium Development Goals, focused on the targets for poverty, education and health, and featuring the participation of civil society.

Also on tap was a thematic debate set for the second week in April on management reform, focusing on procurement, accountability and human resources, and providing Member States with an opportunity to weigh in on those important issues. He added that the Assembly would also hold a high-level plenary on 10 and 11 June to review of the progress achieved in realizing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.

On Security Council reform, he said the Assembly’s long-standing open-ended working group on the matter had met recently and the newly established Task Force -- Portugal, Chile and Bangladesh along with the President -- was in discussions on how and when a paper could be produced that would be the base for intergovernmental negotiations on reforming or expanding the membership in the 15-member Council. Responding to questions, he said that, if that negotiating paper was ready in the near future, there was a good possibility of holding a plenary meeting on Council reform in February.

So, in light of all that, he said that, while the Assembly’s main Committees were completing their work, the Assembly “was not going on holiday”. Hard work had been done during this “dynamic Assembly session”, but much hard work was ahead. Mr. Kerim said he had had great support from Member States, who were the “owners of the United Nations”, and expected that cooperation among all parties to continue. Creating an “active, hard working” Assembly had been his aim, and he believed he had been successful.

Responding to questions, he said the United Nations would continue its work pace during the planned renovation of its Headquarters, including during the transfer of staff to the swing space and back to the Organization’s complex on Manhattan’s East River.

When reminded by a correspondent that today was “d-day for Kosovo”, and asked if he thought that the province would become the United Nations next Member country, he said he would not like to speculate on who would be the 193rd Member State. It would be necessary for everyone to wait and see what the Security Council would decide and then what the follow-up process would be. “We all know how delicate the situation is,” he said, adding that, perhaps after the first of the year, the situation on Kosovo might be more clear.

Asked what the Assembly could do to press the Sudanese Government on the particulars that would speed the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), he said Secretary-General Ban’s efforts in that regard needed to be commended, and that process now needed to play out. He had been considering asking the Secretary-General’s Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, and other officials to address the Assembly on the matter. “Perhaps that might be the next step,” he added.

Commenting on what a correspondent described as mounting mistrust between the Secretariat and Member States over the budget and other financial matters, Mr. Kerim said it was clear that Member States had concerns about the budget. Indeed, “money did not fall from the sky, it comes from the Member States”, who, at the very minimum, had a right to ask questions about the financial status of the Organization.

At the same time, he said, negotiations on the budget were ongoing. He had even given representatives permission to call him at night. He was confident that the Assembly would adopt the budget before the end of this part of the sixty-second session. He noted the “tremendous effort” by Japan, as well as the efforts of the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Egypt, India, “and many, many countries in making sure that we will have a budget”.

“And we will have, but with a very clear message to the Secretary-General and the Secretariat that we would like to see more savings, more measures, more transparency in using the money, because this is part of this reform and the budget is the best way we can exercise pressure to implement this reform of management,” he added.

Finally, he said that, in the coming year, he would continue to promote the idea of a new culture of international relations. He firmly believed that all nations wanted a world that respected and promoted human rights, fundamental freedoms, social justice and the idea of a responsibility to protect. To that end, he planned to hold a discussion with the European Union on the role States, as well as regional organizations and groups, could play in promoting a new culture of international relations.

In this era of globalization and rapidly developing information and communications technology, people wanted to talk to each other and share ideas and experiences. So, there was a need to develop such a culture, and in that way mobilize opportunities to find solutions to modern problems and challenges, he said.

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For information media • not an official record



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