General Assembly President voices hope that global meeting on values will spur action

General Assembly President addresses press conference

11 November 2008 – The General Assembly President expressed optimism today that the high-level “Culture of Peace” gathering, which kicks off tomorrow with the leaders and senior officials from dozens of nations, will hasten action on such global obstacles as hunger and poverty.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Miguel D’Escoto underscored that the two-day Assembly plenary meeting at United Nations Headquarters is not about religion, which he said can be a “very divisive subject.”

Rather, “we’re going to talk about something that is much more capable in uniting us all, which is our values, whether they be faith-based values or whether they come from different ethical, philosophical traditions.”

Heads of State and senior government officials from Israel, Palestine, the United States, Bahrain, the United Kingdom and other countries, along with representatives from more than 70 countries will take part in the event, an initiative put forward by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah.

“We’re here to talk about… tapping our innermost values and putting them at the service of decision-making, of resolutions, of actions to help the world come out of the multiple converging crises of the moment,” Mr. D’Escoto said, referring to issues including climate change, terrorism and the current economic turmoil.

Despite talk of the need for a Wall Street “bailout,” it is humanity that needs assistance, he said, since it is “moral bankruptcy” that is preventing countries from fulfilling commitments to ending poverty.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his “[wholehearted] support” for the gathering.

“The values it aims to promote are common to all the world's religions, and can help us fight extremism, prejudice and hatred,” he said at his monthly press conference, adding that “the anticipated high-level turnout is testimony to its timeliness and importance.”

Tonight, the Secretary-General will be hosting a dinner for participants, and said that it will be a “unique” opportunity, given that Israeli President Shimon Peres will be having a meal with the Saudi King and other leaders from the Arab world.

“This is quite encouraging and positive,” he said. “In that regard, I sincerely hope that through their participation in the meetings and through this kind of a social, diplomatic gathering, that they will be able to promote further understanding.”

Mr. Ban will be holding bilateral meetings with the leaders attending the “Culture of Peace” meeting, ahead of the summit on financial markets and the world economy of the so-called Group of 20 (G-20) nations – marking both the first time it will meet at the head of State level and the first time that the UN Secretary-General has been invited – scheduled for later this week.

Both the Secretary-General and Assembly President underscored the inclusive nature of the meeting, with invitations having been extended to all Member States by Mr. D’Escoto last month.

“This is an open-ended meeting,” Mr. Ban said, while the Assembly President said that “no one has been sidelined.”

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