Summary of End of Year Press Conference by the President of the General Assembly
United Nations, New York 18 December 2013
The President of the United Nations General Assembly, John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda), held an end-of-year press conference today at Headquarters in which he discussed highlights from the past year and outlined expected activities for 2014 and beyond, including the long-standing issue of Security Council reform.
At the outset of the conference, Mr. Ashe announced that a special meeting of the General Assembly would take place on 19 December at Headquarters in honour of the life and memory of Nelson Mandela. He said that Member States would be invited to give their impressions of the South African leader and to share stories about the impact he had on the world.
Calling 2013 an “eventful year”, he recalled a historic set of events in the Security Council, “For the very first time, we held an uncontested election to the Security Council, only to learn a day later one of the winners had changed its mind,” referring to Saudi Arabia’s decision to decline a non-permanent seat on the Council. Ultimately, Jordan replaced Saudi Arabia on the Council.
Continuing on the topic of the Security Council, Mr. Ashe reported that intergovernmental negotiations, which were on a hiatus for a variety of reasons, had restarted last week and several meetings were expected in early 2014.
On Security Council reform, Mr. Ashe called the process an “ongoing issue” and said he would not make any predictions about the future, but that much work remained to be done.
Mr. Ashe said that upon his election as President of the General Assembly, he had announced plans to convene several high-level events, as well as thematic debates. He said that those initiatives were starting to take shape and would begin next February, running through June 2014. A stock-taking event was also in the works for September, which would likely focus on sustainable development goals and long-term financing for sustainable development, two of the intergovernmental negotiating tracks Mr. Ashe had inherited for the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly.
Responding to a question on Security Council reform, Mr. Ashe said that everyone agreed on the necessity for reform and there was no shortage of ideas on what it should look like. However, what was lacking was the collective political will, which had been an obstacle to any forward movement. “It hasn’t been easy and there are many difficulties that lie ahead, so I wouldn’t want to create an impression here that I have some sort of silver bullet that would solve a problem as long-standing as Security Council reform.”
Following a question on a proposed deadline for Council reform, Mr. Ashe said, “There are 193 Member States and because some have called for a particular action, it in no way enjoins the rest to do likewise.”
In a follow-up question as to whether it appeared a consensus opinion was starting to form regarding the direction Security Council reform should move in, he said, “For the past 20 years we are trying to identify a position that everyone can agree on. To date, we are not there as of yet.”
Asked whether a compensation package for developing countries would be part of any future deal on climate change, Mr. Ashe said, “It is a difficult issue, but I believe that parties are beginning to grapple with the particular issue of compensation and I think they have agreed at least to some sort of temporary mechanism that they would put in place.”
Responding to another question about the post-2015 development agenda, Mr. Ashe said that starting next February, the General Assembly would shift its focus towards setting the stage to help frame negotiations for the post-2015 agenda.
See the full webcast of the press conference here: