15 September 2008
General Assembly
GA/10743

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

Sixty-second General Assembly

Plenary

122nd Meeting (AM & Night)


OUTGOING GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT WRAPS UP SIXTY-SECOND SESSION BY CALLING


ON MEMBER STATES TO CONTINUE TACKLING CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES


Delegates Adopt 4 Texts, Defer More than 50 Agenda Items Until Next Year


Urging Member States to keep working together and striving to tackle contemporary issues like climate change and counter-terrorism, outgoing General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim this evening wrapped up a “truly inspiring and momentous year”, during which he had witnessed an evolution in the Assembly’s mindset that could serve as the beginning of a move towards a new culture in international relations.


“If there is a lesson we can take from the sixty-second session, it is that we need more effective multilateralism –- more UN and not less UN,” said Mr. Kerim, closing the session with a passionate call on delegations to build a new culture based on the founding values of the United Nations -– freedom, solidarity, equality, respect, tolerance and shared responsibility.  In today’s uncertain times, those values were ever more relevant to the global public that the United Nations served.  “They find real meaning when they are embodied in the principles of human security, respect for human rights, the responsibility to protect and sustainable development.”  The challenge was whether Member States had the collective will to keep working together for the greater good.


Highlighting the Assembly’s work over the past year, he said 2008 had been a year of controversy and conflict, of climatic change and crises, both man-made and natural.  Further, the global financial system had been tested and found wanting.  Rising food and energy prices had put the fragile progress on the Millennium Development Goals under pressure.  “I challenge the General Assembly to use its influence and voice to strengthen the United Nations capacity to respond.”


He said that, with three debates, the response to climate change had been vigorous.  The session had also had a strong focus on development.  At the midpoint between adoption of the Millennium Development Goals and the 2015 deadline to achieve them, it was clear that the pace was too slow.  “Halting climate change, boosting financing for development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals have been, and should remain, our top priorities.  The nexus between these core issues is fundamental to realizing our goal of long-term economic and environmental sustainability.”  Referring to the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he said a fairer, more equitable world, with opportunity for all, would also be a safer, more stable and secure world.


Turning to what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has referred to as “an internal climate change”, he said more must be done to make the Organization faster, more flexible and more mobile.  Discussion on system-wide coherence had been realized at the country level, but more must be done at Headquarters, particularly on governance, funding and gender.


Important progress had been made on management reform and, despite tremendous difficulties, consensus had been reached on the issue of Security Council reform, he said.  “How well the Assembly performs depends on Member States,” he stressed.  “We can only live up to our mandate if together we continually strive to address contemporary issues and emerging trends.  This is the best way to bolster the authority and international standing of the Assembly.”


Describing some of the session’s events, including the address to the General Assembly by Pope Benedict XVI, he said the Assembly had focused on real and topical issues, with greater inclusion.  Its work had been characterized by a broad-based, multi-stakeholder approach to contemporary challenges.  The Presidents of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council had met regularly to ensure a more joint approach, particularly on the Peacebuilding Commission.  There had been more consultations with Member States.  “All these trends indicate that the General Assembly is performing, that it is more responsive and more action-oriented.  The Assembly is certainly alive, and it is kicking,” he said in conclusion before handing over the President’s gavel to his successor, Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann.


Session Wrap-Up


Intense negotiations on a draft decision included in the draft report of the Open-Ended Working Group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council (document A/AC.247/2008/L.1/Rev.2) led President Kerim to suspend the Assembly’s work at midday.  When delegations returned in the evening, the President, who chairs that Working Group, said he would “take ownership of the draft decision” and, in that capacity, urge delegations to adopt the text by consensus, as orally corrected.


With the subsequent adoption of the decision, the Assembly decided, building on the progress achieved thus far, in particular during its 2006 and 2007 sessions, as well as the positions of and proposals made by Member States, to “continue immediately to address, within the Working Group, the framework and modalities in order to prepare and facilitate intergovernmental negotiations” on the question of reforming the Security Council.


The Assembly further decided, building on the progress achieved thus far and proposals made by Member States, “to commence intergovernmental negotiations in informal plenary of the Assembly during its sixty-third session, but not later than 28 February 2009, based on proposals by Member States, in good faith, with mutual respect and in an open, inclusive and transparent manner, on the question of equitable representation and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Council, seeking a solution that can garner the widest possible political acceptance by the membership”.


The decision set out the following for the basis for the negotiations:  the positions and proposals of Member States, regional groups and other Member State groupings; the five key issues; categories of membership, the question of the veto, regional representation, size of an enlarged Council and working methods of the Security Council, and the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly; the report of the Working Group on its work during the sixty-first session of the General Assembly; and General Assembly decision 61/561 and the report of the Working Group on its work during the Assembly’s sixty-second session.


Speaking in explanation of position before the text’s adoption, Costa Rica’s representative said his delegation had joined the consensus on the understanding that the decision was a recommendation of the Working Group to the Assembly, and that there was a need to achieve the widest possible agreement among Member States through negotiations.  Costa Rica was concerned that a precedent might be created in the proceedings of working groups.  There should be no voting in such working groups and it was to be hoped that future agreements would be reached without using the rules of procedures in a creative way.


Also speaking in explanation of position after the action, Japan’s representative expressed his “deepest appreciation” for the President’s leadership in facilitating the process of Security Council reform.  All delegations had joined the decision to start intergovernmental negotiations next year, all had made compromises and “all of us are winners”.


South Africa’s representative also paid tribute to the President, his team of facilitators and more than 60 delegations who had been willing to support the report.  “Today is a wonderful day for the United Nations” as intergovernmental negotiations would start in February.


Among the three other resolutions adopted without a vote today was a text on revitalization of the General Assembly, by which Member States, recognizing the need to further enhance the Assembly’s role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency, decided to establish, at its sixty-third session, an ad hoc working group on that subject, open to all Member States and tasked with identifying further ways to enhance the role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency of the Assembly, among others things, by building on previous resolutions; and reporting to the General Assembly at its sixty-third session.


The Assembly also adopted a resolution submitted by President Kerim on system-wide coherence (document A/62/L.51).  By that text, the Assembly decided that it’s continuing and deepening intergovernmental work on system-wide coherence would focus exclusively and in an integrated manner on “Delivering as One” at the country and regional levels, harmonization of business practices, funding, governance, and gender equality and the empowerment of women.


It requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, drawing on the resources and expertise of the United Nations system and building on the outcome of its triennial comprehensive policy review, to provide Member States with substantive papers on the issues of funding and governance as those issues arose in the context of system-wide coherence, with a view to facilitating substantive action by the General Assembly within the sixty-third session.


Finally by that text, the Assembly resolved, at the conclusion of its entire process on system-wide coherence, “to review and take stock of all of its prior actions and deliberations in a single resolution or decision”.  The conclusions and recommendations of the co-chairs of the consultative follow-up process on system-wide coherence –- the Permanent Representatives of Ireland and the United Republic of Tanzania -– are annexed to the resolution.


Ahead of action on that resolution, Cuba’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the ongoing negotiations on system-wide coherence should maintain their integrity.


The Assembly then adopted, by consensus, a text submitted by the President on the Organization’s mandate review (document A/62/L.52), by which it took note of the final report of the co-chairs of the mandate review process during the sixty-second session, including on the review of the thematic clusters relating to the effective coordination of humanitarian assistance and the development of Africa.


Also by that resolution, the Assembly noted that one of the important findings of the process was the difficulty of identifying resources associated with one particular mandate, which limited the potential of the review to fulfil its objective of strengthening and updating the Organization’s programme of work and improving the allocation of resources for the effective implementation of mandates.


Following the text’s adoption, Cuba’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said his delegation “applauded the conclusion of a process that should never have begun in the first place”.  The format of the mandate review had been the work of a group of delegations that had actually been attempting to undermine the true democratic nature of the Organization.  Those powerful countries, whose self-granted prerogatives were never seriously questioned, had never planned to ensure reform of the Organization so that it could better meet the needs of the wider international community, especially those of the developing countries.  The United Nations, like other intergovernmental bodies, must constantly improve its operations, but Cuba would never accept attempts “under this [agenda item] heading” that the voices of developing countries be silenced.


Later in the meeting, the representative of the United States said his delegation had supported the conclusion of the co-chairs of the Informal Plenary on the Mandate Review that, given the obstacles identified, it was not worthwhile to continue the mandate review process in which the Assembly had been engaged in recent sessions.  However, in doing so, the Assembly must acknowledge its failure to accomplish the goal of the 2005 World Summit of substantively reviewing the Organization’s 9,000 or so mandates and weeding out those that were “obsolete and redundant”.  In any organization of the size and breadth of the United Nations, it was inevitable to review such mandates.  Unfortunately, that responsibility had not been fulfilled in the manner that leaders had anticipated in 2005.  At the same time, the United States welcomed paragraph 4 of the resolution, which provided an opportunity for the Assembly to consider alternative ways to review mandates, including by focusing on the mandate regeneration cycle.


In other action, the Assembly deferred consideration of, and included on the draft agenda of its sixty-third session, items relating to the prevention of armed conflict; the situation in Central America:  progress in fashioning a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development; the Question of Cyprus; armed aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas); and the situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti.


It also deferred consideration of matters relating to armed Israeli aggression against the Iraqi nuclear installations and its grave consequences for the established international system concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and international peace and security; consequences of the Iraqi occupation of and aggression against Kuwait; and the Declaration of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity on the aerial and naval military attack against the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya by the United States Administration in April 1986.


The Assembly deferred to its sixty-third session more than 50 items for further consideration, including items such as measures to eliminate international terrorism; United Nations reform:  measures and proposals; strengthening of the United Nations system; the Capital Master Plan; and Improving the financial situation of the United Nations.


After the Assembly decided to include on its upcoming agenda the item on “follow-up to the recommendations on administration and internal oversight of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme”, the representative of Costa Rica stressed that the item should indeed be retained and that the report of the Committee had made a series of important recommendations that continued to be relevant.


As the Assembly concluded its work, the representative of the Philippines paid tribute to President Kerim’s “utmost competence, vigilance, diligence and dedication to the United Nations”.


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For information media • not an official record