29 September 2008
Press Conference

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

PRESS CONFERENCE ON GENERAL DEBATE OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S SIXTY-THIRD SESSION

 


Speaking at a Headquarters press conference on the closing day of the general debate, a senior United Nations official said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “quite pleased” with outcomes from the sixty-third session of the General Assembly’s first week of work. 


Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, said the Secretary-General was particularly pleased with outcomes on the Millennium Development Goals, climate change and food security.


“In each of these areas, we’ve seen some concrete embodiments of new ways of doing business -- new coalitions of member Governments, private sector entities, private philanthropic foundations, and civil society, all coming together to address the challenges,” said Mr. Orr.


Nicholas Haysom, Director for Political Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, joined Mr. Orr at the press conference, held to provide an analysis of the general debate.


Mr. Orr supplied details of some of the most significant outcomes from the debate, and the two high-level meetings held on the Millennium Development Goals and Africa’s development needs.  Most notably had been the strengthening of the coalition on the development Goals, which was “visibly broader and thicker than it was even a week ago”, he said.  Already, there were concrete results coming out of that coalition, which now included more Governments, private sector, and philanthropic players.  Among the results was an estimated $16 billion in new pledges directed towards achieving the Millennium Goals.  “That’s significantly more, quite frankly, than we were expecting,” said Mr. Orr. 


He also pointed out the coalition’s important steps forward on certain health issues, like malaria.  Six to nine months ago, it had been “considered almost fantasy” when the Secretary-General had called for an end to deaths from malaria by 2015.  Now, however, with new pledges and commitments, that was “no longer considered fantasy, but likely”.


Climate change had also been a major focus of the general debate and side events throughout the week, he said.  There too, numerous multilateral partnerships had been formed that could guarantee action.  In particular, he drew attention to the joint leadership role undertaken by the Secretary-General and the Conference of Parties Troika to heighten global awareness of climate change issues, the recently-launched United Nations Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Programme, and the Secretary-General’s meetings with roughly two dozen international advertising executives.


Mr. Orr also underscored the attention given in general debate statements to the global food crisis.  There too, the Secretary-General had sought to mobilize widespread support, in particular for the Comprehensive Framework for Action on global food security.  A dinner he had held on Thursday, 25 September for 30 world leaders and Government ministers had resulted in a general agreement to increase productivity, invest more in agricultural development and increase private sector investment and public sector funding.  The “Purchase for Progress” initiative launched last week, as well as China’s pledge to double the number of agricultural technicians it would send to countries in need, were also prime examples of innovative approaches and cooperation toward resolving the crisis.


Mr. Haysom said that during the more than 120 bilateral meetings held by the Secretary-General throughout the week, there had been a “distinct shift” in the concerns of Member States away from peace and security issues and towards global crises, such as the food crisis, the energy crisis, and the failure to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.


“It is these areas in which the United Nations is more readily accepted as a factor of organization and coordination for a solution to these problems,” he said.  “And these are also the areas where the Secretary-General’s leadership has been more readily accepted.”  By contrast, on peace and security issues, the United Nations was being called upon more frequently to support regional associations, which was directly in line with what the General Assembly and Security Council had suggested was the best path forward for the Organization on those issues.


Among the peace and security concerns that animated the discussions over the previous week was the “enduring concern” over the lack of resources of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said Mr. Haysom.  Bilateral meetings had resulted in a number of positive indications that helicopters might be forthcoming in Darfur, and several States would be willing to play a role in an international stabilization force in Somalia.  There had also been some positive indications emanating from the Secretary-General’s efforts to find solutions in several other specific areas of concern, including in the Middle East, Georgia, and Myanmar.


Asked how discussions in Geneva on the Georgian situation might unfold, Mr. Haysom explained that, although the details were not yet fixed, the possible upcoming discussions in Geneva would tackle three main issues:  the operational aspects of the security architecture, such as the deployment of peacekeepers or monitors; various human rights concerns, in particular those regarding refugees; and the outlining of a broader conflict resolution architecture.


Responding to a question on the possible indictment of President Omer Hassan al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court, and possible discussions between the Secretary-General and various parties last week, Mr. Haysom said it was “common knowledge” that the African Union and the League of Arab States would approach the Security Council to delay a possible indictment of Mr. Al-Bashir and that the Secretary-General would remain neutral on the issue, allowing the Security Council to make a final political judgement if necessary.


To a question about United Nations reforms and whether discussions on the topic figured heavily in the Secretary-General’s talks last week, Mr. Haysom said the Secretary-General was “ahead of the curve” and would often raise the issue with Member States, in an effort to rally their support on various initiatives.


Several correspondents drew attention to recent criticism of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, specifically, comparisons made between him and former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  In response, Mr. Orr said Mr. Ban and Mr. Annan were “two giants”, although they differed in leadership styles.  Secretary-General Ban had been very active on the key issues of the day, he added, but the challenges the world faced were constantly changing and a Secretary-General must adapt and change as well, in order to ensure the best possible response.


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For information media • not an official record