President recalls achievements, failures as General Assembly concludes 67th session

Outgoing General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic (centre) hands over gavel to incoming President John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson is at left. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

16 September 2013 – General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic today called on Member States to chart a course towards a more secure and sustainable future, as he brought to a close a year-long session marked by what he termed “notable achievements” by the international community as well as its “glaring failure” to halt the tragedy in Syria.

“I feel deeply ashamed that we have not been able to find a way to stop the carnage,” Mr. Jeremic said in his closing address to the 193-member body, referring to the fighting that has been raging since March 2011 and has claimed over 100,000 lives.

“To end the fratricide, we’ve got to have high-level political dialogue. We need to bring the parties together, and make them talk to each other face to face,” he added, stressing the need to push harder for the convening of an international peace conference on Syria.

Mr. Jeremic noted that Syria is but the “latest fissure” to appear in the international system, and that the quantity and frequency of flashpoints has been surging upward in recent times.

“Humanity is facing a test of unprecedented proportions – an existential crisis unlike any the world has experienced in its long and tumultuous history,” he stated. “We are in the midst of a period of great consequence, characterized by growing economic instability, rising social inequality, and spiralling environmental degradation.”

All nations are increasingly affected, and none can hope to solve these challenges on their own, he remarked, adding that now is the time to “shake off complacency” and throw aside old habits that reinforce the status quo.

“It is the moment to reinvent the very definition of human progress – to transform what not so long ago was but a far-off dream, into a reality for all of mankind. And it is the very last moment to chart a course towards a more secure, prosperous and sustainable future.”

Recalling the achievements of the past session, Mr. Jeremic noted that the Assembly adopted close to 90 written and oral decisions, and around 300 resolutions. One of the most significant related to the “breakthrough” Arms Trade Treaty, the first legally binding United Nations instrument that establishes common standards for the international transfer of conventional armaments.

The President also convened a number of thematic debates on important issues ranging from the peaceful resolution of conflicts in Africa to sustainable development.

“Together, we broke a number of taboos – and made sure there would be no more forbidden topics in the General Assembly. I believe it will help this universal parliament assume a more pronounced role in the governance of world affairs,” Mr. Jeremic added before handing over the gavel to his successor, Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon thanked Mr. Jeremic – who was just shy of his 37th birthday when he was elected to lead the General Assembly – for the “great dynamism” he brought to the job.

“I am sure he now feels considerably older than 38; presiding over 193 Member States has a way of aging a person!” said Mr. Ban.

The Assembly’s 67th session coincided with a “challenging” period for the international community, said the Secretary-General, marked by, among others, the crisis in Syria, the prolonged consequences of the global economic crisis and discussions on a post-2015 global development agenda.

The 68th session of the General Assembly is set to open tomorrow.


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