12 September 2006 As the General Assembly opened its 61st session today, the body’s new president promised to focus on alleviating extreme poverty and advancing the process of UN reform undertaken during the previous session.
“The General Assembly has to continue to evolve and strive to deliver sustainable solutions to the major challenges of our time,” Sheikha Haya Rashid Al Khalifa told delegates this morning. “Reform is a process rather than an event.”
She noted that several recommendations of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document have yet to be fully realized, such as disarmament and non-proliferation, Security Council reform, mandate review and system-wide coherence.
The UN also had a crucial role in promoting peace and security, she said. “Today, man-made conflicts are destroying lives and displacing people on a scale that sometimes exceeds the destructive effects of nature – floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.”
A pressing issue was combating international terrorism, which required the adoption of both preventive and defensive measures, she said.
Later briefing reporters, she expressed the hope that after last week’s adoption of a resolution on a global counter-terrorism strategy, the current Assembly session would reach agreement on a comprehensive definition of terrorism.
She also said that it was important to consolidate the reforms that had been achieved in the past year, notably by ensuring that the new Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council have a real impact on large numbers of people.
Improving the situation of women is also one of her top goals. The fact that half the world’s population typically have less access to health care, employment, decision-making and property ownership needed to be addressed, she told Assembly delegates.
Sheikha Haya is the first female General Assembly President since 1969 and the first Muslim woman to hold the post.
“It does not matter that I am a Muslim or a Christian or Jewish,” she told reporters. “We are human beings and we have the same worries and we have the same problems.