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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

13 September 2005

Final Declaration Ready for U.N. Summit Approval

60th General Assembly opens after goals document approved

By Judy Aita and Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
Washington File Staff Writers

United Nations -- With applause and relief, weary diplomats ended the 59th session of the United Nations General Assembly and officially opened the 60th session September 13 after last-minute agreement on a final declaration for world leaders to adopt at the U.N. 60th Anniversary Summit.

The closing ceremony was postponed several times over the past two days as diplomats struggled to complete negotiations on the text of the final document that will be adopted by the world leaders attending the September 14-16 summit preceding the General Assembly's annual debate.

The 35-page document outlines goals and broad statements of principles in the main areas of human rights; development and poverty reduction; peacebuilding and democracy; terrorism; HIV/AIDS and malaria; and U.N. management reform.  It also includes an acknowledgement that the international community has the responsibility to use "appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means" to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

The document strongly condemns terrorism "in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes as it constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security."

The document also contains new initiatives for a new human rights body called the Human Rights Council and a Peacebuilding Commission to help nations emerging from conflict.  Both were proposals of Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his report In Larger Freedom. (See related article.)

Strong management reform measures requested by the secretary-general and the United States were replaced by generalities and left to the upcoming General Assembly to flesh out.

Ambassador Jan Eliasson of Sweden, incoming president of the 60th General Assembly session, said the program outlined in the document is "the most ambitious and wide-ranging" since the founding of the United Nations in 1945.  He said that the document will be a mandate for action from the leaders of the organization's 191 member states, and is "a strong basis for reform which we will take forward during the 60th session."

"The world's expectations are high," Eliasson said.  "We go into the high-level meeting and await our leaders direction and vision recognizing the responsibility history has placed on us with renewed energy and determination."

Annan, at a late afternoon press briefing, said that overall he was pleased with the outcome document that has been prepared for the world leaders.

"The good news is that we have an outcome document, which has just been approved by the General Assembly almost unanimously with two delegations reserving their positions.  The document includes a good chapter on development. We've got the establishment of the Human Rights Council approved.  We've got the Peacebuilding Commission approved," he said.

Annan said that it does contain a definition statement on terrorism, as well as the Democracy Fund.

Annan said the lack of strong management reform in the document is disappointing, but it often is difficult to get everything one might want in an organization with 191 members.

"Of course with this huge number of member states it has been difficult, but I think it has been a success. We've got a good document. It's not everything we wanted, and we can build on it," he said.  "The challenge is implementation, moving ahead and working together to implement it," he said.


U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said he was encouraged by the shape of the outcome document, but told reporters "this is not the alpha and the omega, and we never thought it would be."

Bolton said the United States obtained a number of priorities it felt were important on terrorism, human rights and on management reforms. However, he conceded that there were things the United States did not get in the document that now goes to heads of state for final approval.

"It's a text ultimately that member governments are going to have to agree to and we're optimistic about that, although it won't be everything we sought, that we will have a strong outcome document," he said.

The ambassador added that it would have been better if there had been a broader discussion about fundamental changes in U.N. management and governance because it has been "a critically important priority for the United States."

"While the steps that have been taken here are important first steps, there are larger issues.  And I think the extent of the discussion over the management and reforms, in and of itself, is indicative of the need for broader reforms," he said.

"We're pleased that this is a good first step…. A lot more work remains to be done," Bolton said.

Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom said that the declaration "means that the summit can start on the correct basis.  For us the challenge, of course, will be in the 60th assembly to actually maintain the progress that has been made today."

For additional information, see The United Nations at 60.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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