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Press Conference by General Assembly President on Topical Issues, Upcoming Events, 3 April 2012

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

The past six months had seen an active, responsive General Assembly that had been relevant in addressing many of the key global issues of concern to all, its President, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser (Qatar), said at Headquarters today, pledging a redoubling of efforts to achieve success on all remaining matters on the organ’s agenda in the remaining six months of its current session.

At a press conference on topical global issues and key upcoming Assembly events, he highlighted some of the major events that had kept the Assembly busy during the first half of his one-year tenure as President of the sixty-sixth session. High among the issues that would occupy the Assembly’s attention during the remainder of the session were the state of the global economy, human trafficking and Security Council reform, he said. More immediately, the Assembly was deeply concerned about the situation in Syria, he added.

Describing human trafficking as “a serious problem”, he noted that an estimated 2.5 million people around the world were trapped in that criminal activity, the majority of them women, children and migrants. There was therefore an urgent need for the international community to work more closely together to end human trafficking. “Most importantly, we must be doing more to prevent anyone — especially women and children — falling victim to human trafficking.”

The Assembly was also busy with Security Council reform, he said, recalling that he had organized a two-day retreat on that issue last weekend with the overall aim of re-energizing discussions in the intergovernmental negotiations. He stressed the importance of reform being a Member State-driven process that clearly generated their broadest possible acceptance.

On Syria, he said Member States remained deeply concerned about the situation there, adding that just yesterday he had asked Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, to brief the General Assembly. That was expected to happen at the earliest possible time, given the 10 April deadline for the Syrian Government to cease all troop movements, end its use of heavy weapons against its own citizens and pull troops out of populated areas.

“The world is watching,” he declared, observing, however, that sadly, reports of Syrian citizens being killed by their own Government were still being received every day. “The violence and the killings must stop immediately,” he emphasized. “The Syrian Government must cooperate fully with Mr. Annan and his team for the sake of the Syrian people.” He urged the Government’s opponents also to cooperate with the Special Envoy and his team.

Looking ahead to the next six months, he highlighted a number of major events on the General Assembly’s agenda, saying that just nine days from now, on 12 April, he would be hosting an important high-level meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction, the outcome of which would be a President’s summary that would contribute to the “Rio+20” process. On 17 and 18 May, the President said, he and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would co-chair a two-day high-level thematic debate on the state of the world economy. The discussions would contribute to international efforts to secure a sustained, inclusive and equitable global economic recovery, he explained.

The President said that on 23 May, he would convene an informal high-level meeting on “The Role of Member States in Mediation”, in which presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and some of the most prominent international mediators would be expected to participate. “We aim to draw deeply from the experiences and knowledge of Member States so we can deal more effectively with regional and international conflicts,” Mr. Al‑Nasser said.

He said that on 22 April, he would co-chair part of the proceedings at the thirteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), to be held in Doha, Qatar, with Supachai Panitchpakdi, that agency’s Secretary-General. That theme of the high-level session would be “Development-centred globalization towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development”, he said, adding that the outcome document could serve as a useful input on how to transition to sustainable development. In the last week of May, the President said, he planned to convene a thematic debate on preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development under the theme “The road to Rio+20 and beyond”. That meeting would be important in getting all Member States on board to ensure success for the June Conference.

Asked about Member States’ strong criticism of the projected cost overruns in the Capital Master Plan, and of the cost of travel by United Nations officials, the President said neither issue fell under his purview, pointing out that they fell under the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and the Office of the Secretary-General. He said, however, that he was “trying very hard” to help Member States overcome their differences, and in that regard was organizing a retreat outside New York on 13‑14 April to which he had invited the Secretary-General or his representative, as well as the Chair of the Fifth Committee, experts and ambassadors.

[The Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly later said: “There is an ongoing discussion within the Fifth Committee on that issue. President Al-Nasser is aware that some delegations have already raised the issue in the context of the Fifth Committee. In principle, the President believes that all expenses should be within approved budgetary limits and projects completed within the expected time frame. In this context, the President believes that the Fifth Committee will resolve this issue in close consultation with the United Nations Secretary-General.”]

Asked how he thought the Syrian Government and opposition could come together in light of decisions taken in Istanbul by the Friends of Syria on funding the opposition, and whether there was any incentive now for the opposition to stop fighting, the President said he had asked Mr. Annan to brief the Assembly, which had authorized his mandate. The Special Envoy had indicated that he was agreeable although his travelling schedule was “extremely tight”, and he would probably deliver the briefing before 13 April, after which the Assembly President would himself be travelling on a different mission. He said he expected to hear back from Mr. Annan today or tomorrow regarding a definitive date. If was unable to travel to New York, a briefing via video conference would be considered.

Regarding the funding of the opposition by the Friends of Syria, he said no Member State had discussed or raised that matter with him. “What we are concerned about today, we are concerned about the mission of Kofi Annan, how he is going to achieve the six-point plan,” he said.

Asked where the request for the admission of a Palestinian “Observer” State stood, he replied that he had not received any request to date, and the Palestinian Authority had not raised it with him.

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