5 September 2000


Press Release
GA/9746



MILLENNIUM ASSEMBLY ELECTS HARRI HOLKERI (FINLAND) PRESIDENT, ADMITS TUVALU AS 189TH UNITED NATIONS MEMBER STATE

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In Afternoon’s Second Plenary Meeting, Assembly Also Elects Vice-Presidents, Main Committee Chairmen

“In order not to become a hermit kingdom, understood only by United Nations experts, the General Assembly must be able to explain why its work is relevant to the outside world”, Harri Holkeri (Finland), the newly elected President of the General Assembly, said this afternoon at the opening of the fifty-fifth session.

Stressing the need to work in a transparent and understandable manner, he said that in order to add value and make a difference, the Assembly must address the challenges of rapid change and globalization. In doing so, it must respond to the current priorities of its Member States. That required the courage to look back at the original legislative intent of the General Assembly and determine how that could be best reflected in the practical work of the Organization today.

He also drew attention to the fact that the new Session had been designated as the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations. The stating that the Millennium Summit and its Declaration would provide enormous momentum, reinforcing the implementation of the global agenda and its development targets, as defined in the global conferences of the 1990s.

Adopting by acclamation its first resolution of the new session, the Assembly also admitted Tuvalu as the 189th Member State of the United Nations. The President informed the Assembly that the flag of the new Member would be raised in front of the delegates’ entrance immediately following the adjournment of the second plenary meeting this afternoon.

Expressing gratitude on the occasion of his country's admission to the Organization, Ionatana Ionatana, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said that membership in the United Nations symbolized how far Tuvalu had come since independence in 1978. In the last two decades, his country had steadily matured politically and economically. It was now committing its own resources to development, including -- and especially -- education. “We know what a privilege it is to be standing in the General Assembly as an equal member, despite our small population, economy and geographic size”, he said.

Representatives of Kenya (on behalf of African States), Japan (on behalf of Asian States), Russian Federation (on behalf of Eastern European States), Sweden


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(on behalf of Western European and Other States), United States (as Host Country), Federated States of Micronesia (on behalf of the South Pacific Forum) and Barbados (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States) congratulated the new Member State on its admission.

In addition to electing the new President, the Assembly elected its 21 Vice- Presidents and appointed nine members of the Credentials Committee.

The 21 States elected to Vice-Presidencies of the Assembly were: Belarus, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, China, Comoros, El Salvador, France, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Kuwait, Maldives, Mozambique, Russian Federation, Suriname, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan and Yemen. The nine Members appointed to the Credentials Committee were Bahamas, China, Ecuador, Gabon, Ireland, Mauritius, Russian Federation, Thailand and United States.

The Assembly's six Main Committees also held brief consecutive meetings to elect their Chairmen before the Assembly returned for the afternoon’s second scheduled plenary meeting. The following were elected by acclamation: U Mya Than (Myanmar) -- First Committee (Disarmament and International Security); Alexandru Niculescu (Romania) -- Second Committee (Economic and Financial); Yvonne Gittens-Joseph (Trinidad and Tobago) -- Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural); Matia Mulumba Semakula Kiwanuka (Uganda) -- Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization); Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala) -- Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary); and Mauro Politi (Italy) -- Sixth Committee (Legal).

Also constituted was the Assembly’s General Committee for the fifty-fifth session, which will consist of the newly-elected Vice-Presidents and the Chairmen of the Main Committees. The first meeting of the General Committee will be held at 8 p.m. on Wednesday 6 September.

Acting on the recommendation of the Committee on Conferences, the Assembly also authorized the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Working Group on the Financing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Preparatory Committee for the High-level International Intergovernmental Event on Financing for Development, the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to meet in New York during the main part of the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly.

The Assembly also took note of the document listing the following 26 Member States in arrears in the payment of their contributions to the Organization under Article 19 of the Charter: Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Dominica, Gambia, Georgia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Mauritania, Niger, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tajikistan, Togo and Yugoslavia. However, the President informed the Assembly that since the issuance of that document, Rwanda and Togo had reduced their arrears below the amount specified in Article 19. [By Article 19, a Member State in arrears in the


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amount equal to, or exceeding, contributions due for the preceding two years shall have no vote in the General Assembly.]

On organizational matters concerning the Millennium Summit, the Assembly was informed that the Heads of State of the countries of the Presidents of the fifty- fourth and the fifty-fifth sessions of the General Assembly would jointly preside over the Summit. On 7 September, the 10 a.m. round table would be chaired by Aleksander Kwaniewski, President of Poland; the 3 p.m. one would be chaired by Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias, President of Venezuela. The round table at 10 a.m. on 8 September would be chaired by Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria.

At the beginning of the session, the Assembly observed a traditional minute of silent prayer or meditation, by which it also commemorated the International Day of Peace.

The next meeting of the General Assembly will be held at 9 a.m. tomorrow, 6 September.

Statement by Assembly President

HARRI HOLKERI (Finland), the newly elected President of the General Assembly, said the fact that this Session of the Assembly had been designated as the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations made the privilege of serving the Member States particularly momentous. The Millennium Summit would bring together a record number of Heads of State and Government and was a unique symbolic moment. The Summit Declaration would guide the Organization’s work not only during the Millennium Assembly, but for years to come.

He said multilateralism was a means to promote greater social equality, democracy and human rights, and in particular, rights of women and girls. Those goals, and the overall goals of sustainable human development, alleviation of poverty and combating global environmental threats, were central.

The Millennium Summit and its Declaration would provide enormous momentum, reinforcing the implementation of the global agenda and its development targets, as defined in the global conferences of the 1990s. The Declaration would constitute an authoritative mandate for the Assembly's work and for his Presidency. “On the agenda before us, there is one issue which is close to my heart”, he said. “It is primary and secondary education, particularly for girls. Education is a key element in the global economy and we should implement our commitments in this regard.”

Every effort must be made to make new technology available to all at a low cost, he said. Information and communication technology was a true opportunity for development, whether for reducing poverty, improving education or combating HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. It could help in better understanding climate change and other environmental challenges, and in planning better neighbourhoods in place of slums. In other words, he said, it facilitated reaching the concrete goals which were part of the Summit Declaration.


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The Organization's outreach towards wider civil society was closely related to the overall relevance of the United Nations. "This is a challenge the United Nations can either accept and grow with or shy away from and stop growing", he said. The norm should be dialogue and inclusion. The private sector was part of civil society. The United Nations was currently exploring new ways to cooperate with the private sector, so as to assure that it would take due note of the Organization's work and standards for mutual benefit. Furthermore, it must be the Organization's goal to enhance understanding, collaboration and complementarity of activities between the United Nations and the international financial institutions.

To be effective, and to get due credit, the Assembly must work in a transparent and understandable manner. "In order not to become a hermit kingdom, understood only by United Nations experts, the General Assembly must be able to explain why its work is relevant to the outside world", he said. In order to add value and make a difference, the Assembly must address, in a focused, meaningful and timely manner, the challenges of rapid change and globalization. In doing so, it must respond to the current priorities of its Member States. That required the courage to look back at the original legislative intent of the General Assembly and determine how that could be best reflected in the practical work of the Organization today.

Yet the General Assembly was not only about specific mandates and accomplishments, he continued. To engage in a dialogue on an equal basis, the global community needed the Assembly. "Between nations, even the most expensive dialogue is immeasurably cheaper than the cheapest armed conflict." As in any parliament, there was bound to be a certain degree of partisanship and political manoeuvring in the Assembly. However, the Assembly could lose its effectiveness if that turned into a stifling block mentality and an "us-versus-them" mindset. He appealed to Member States to work in the spirit of partnership and solidarity. During the session, hard and at times unpleasant decisions would have to be made. Those decisions required a spirit of dialogue and inclusion from all.

"I believe in people and I believe in the United Nations. I am convinced that we can live in peace and harmony, because the power of common values and goals exceeds our differences. Our strength lies in the diversity of humankind, and in our different backgrounds, skills and knowledge. As a father and grandfather, I dream of a better world for my children and theirs", he said. "Let us not be afraid of the difficulties and uncertainties ahead. Instead, let us build on cooperation, mutual understanding and trust."

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