16 September 2008
General Assembly
GA/10744

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

Sixty-third General Assembly

Plenary

1st Meeting (PM)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO WORK FOR STRONGER ASSEMBLY, MORE


DEMOCRATIC UNITED NATIONS, AS SIXTY-THIRD SESSION OPENS

 


Announces High-Level Dialogue on United Nations Democratization,

Plans to Focus on Climate Change, Gender Equality, Situation of Palestine


Opening the General Assembly’s sixty-third session today, incoming President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua decried the relative insignificance to which the 192-member body had been relegated in recent years, and urged Member States to “wholeheartedly embrace the universal call for a strengthened and empowered Assembly, which can only be achieved through the democratization of the United Nations”.


It was therefore imperative to deal with factors that had limited the Assembly’s institutional capacity:  the non-observance of United Nations Charter principles and growing tendency to deprive the Assembly of any real power, and the transfer of ever more power to the Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions, among them.  Indeed, it was in the lack of democracy within the Organization where States found the most profound cause for the world’s most serious problems, Mr. d’Escoto said.


“The central and overarching objective of this sixty-third session of the General Assembly will be to democratize our United Nations,” he declared.  To that end, he planned a High-Level Dialogue on the Democratization of the United Nations held during three five-day sessions, the first of which would focus on the coordination of Bretton Woods and other international finance institutions with the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly.  The necessary democratization of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank required a change in the share system and the system for electing the respective Boards of Directors.


The second session would focus on the Assembly’s revitalization and empowerment, while the third session would provide a frank discussion of the Security Council, a body in which some members seemed unable to break what appeared to be an “addiction to war”.  They had confused the veto privilege with the thought that they could do as they pleased.  Privileges granted by law on the assumption that they are reasonable and for the common good remained valid only as long as that assumption held true.


He viewed his post as an opportunity to transform the “prevailing exclusionary logic of selfishness” which had, at times, crippled the General Assembly’s ability to fulfil its mandate, and replace it with “the logic of love, inclusiveness and solidarity”.  The struggle for full acceptance of that logic in both the Organization and among Member States would be the principal endeavour of his presidency.


“The state of our world today is deplorable,” he said, noting that more than half the world’s people languished in hunger and destitution.  While all people, without exception, shared responsibility for such a state of affairs, there was no point in arguing over varying degrees of responsibility.  “What is important now is that we look to the future, learning from our past mistakes, and together embark wholeheartedly on the task of building a new and better world,” he said.


In that context, he called on delegates to recognize that “we are all sisters and brothers”, a truth that demanded a change in thinking, behaving and interacting with one another.  Acceptance of that truth -– and its logical consequences -- would determine whether coming generations would have a decent future.


In addition, States must rediscover their role as stewards of the Earth, he said.  Humans had turned into “arrogant landlords”, believing that they had absolute rights over what had been entrusted to their care for the good of all.  Wake-up calls were imperative, as the basic problem was an ethical problem.  He was convinced that all peoples, within their respective religious, cultural and ethical-philosophical traditions, would find strong grounds for embracing the logic of love and solidarity.


With that, he turned to various crises of great scale -– economic, financial, environmental, humanitarian and legal -– which were converging in the shadow of the present world food crisis.  Credit market distortions, subsidized oil prices and rising food prices had exponentially aggravated a deterioration of the world economy, and States today found themselves facing an “unprecedented global economic upheaval”.


At the root of world hunger was the unequal distribution of purchasing power within and between countries, he said, calling on Governments to take “courageous decisions” that included addressing distortions brought on by developed country agricultural subsidies, and the problematic development model pushed upon developing countries by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.  The Assembly this year would examine the immediate and root causes of the world food crisis and its impact on hunger and poverty.


On climate change, he called the recent adoption of the Bali Plan of Action an important step towards finding tangible solutions to that issue, adding that it was imperative for all countries to recognize the value of tropical forests as important carbon sinks.  Similarly, guaranteeing access to drinking water was a fundamental right of all people.


Turning to terrorism, he said no State should appropriate the right to decide which States were “terrorists” or sponsors of terrorism; less still should States that were guilty of wars of aggression -– the worst form of terrorism -– unilaterally take action against those they had stigmatized.  The Assembly would embark on a discussion of international terrorism, including its definition.


On nuclear control and disarmament, he pointed out that, each year, the Assembly adopted over 50 resolutions on disarmament and regulation of armaments, yet the effective implementation of decisions was missing.  He would call on States to adopt a results-based approach to disarmament and the regulation of armaments, an approach that measured deeds, not only numbers of resolutions.


The Assembly would also pay particular attention to the themes of human trafficking, the situation of Palestine, humanitarian assistance and gender equality.  In addressing the needs of boys and girls in situations of armed conflict and natural disasters, States should consider their right to education.


In closing, he wished for the sixty-third session to go down in history as the “Assembly of Frankness”.  World crises were too serious to allow for euphemisms or half measures, he declared.


“Change -– real, credible change -– is the watchword of the day,” he said.  All people possessed enormous reserves of human nobility, and it was time to tap into those reserves as persons and as nations.  “Now is the time for all of us to begin the process of turning weapons into ploughshares to feed a hungry world,” he said.


Mr. d’Escoto concluded his statement with a live musical performance that included a singer, guitar player, cellist and drummer.


In other business today, the Assembly appointed nine members of the Credentials Committee:   Botswana, China, Cyprus, United States, Russian Federation, Luxembourg, Mexico, Mozambique and Saint Kitts and Nevis.


The Assembly also decided that the following United Nations programmes and bodies would meet during the sixty-third session (documents A/63/352 and Add.1) on the strict understanding that such meetings would have to be accommodated within available facilities and services:  the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, and the Working Group on the Financing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).


The Assembly also approved meetings for the United Nations Disarmament Commission, Independent Audit Advisory Committee, Executive Board of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


The Assembly next took note of a letter from the Secretary-General (document A/63/350) to the Assembly President, which informed the body that seven States were in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter.  Those States included the Central African Republic, Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Tajikistan.


[According to Article 19 of the Charter, a Member State in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization will have no vote in the Assembly, if the amount of those arrears exceeds the amount of the contributions due from the preceding two years.]


The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.


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For information media • not an official record