14 May 1999
BEIRUT, 14 May (UN Information Centre) -- Fifty-five years after its founding, and in the context of a radically different world than existed even a mere decade earlier, what kind of United Nations do Member States desire?
This is one of several key questions that the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly, which has been designated the Millennium Assembly, will face when it opens in September 2000. The Millennium Assembly will also have, as an integral part, a Millennium Summit at Heads of State level.
In preparation for the milestone session, the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Hazem El-Beblawi, announced during a press conference today at the United Nations House in Beirut that the Commission had invited several dozens of personalities for the regional hearings to be held on 23-24 May to debate the region views on how the United Nations can best achieve its goals in the coming millennium.
Drawing on the outcomes of those hearings, which will be held in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and the Latin America- Caribbean region, the Secretary-General will produce a report to Member States on the United Nations in the twenty-first century.
Mr. Beblawi announced that ESCWA's regional hearing will focus on issues of particular interest to the region such as peace and security, economic and social development, human rights and good governance. Representatives of States in the region, local and regional non-governmental organizations, academics and opinion leaders will gather to discuss those central aspects in relation with the work of the United Nations, including its efforts in these fields.
The ESCWA hearing will be the first among a series of regional hearings to be organized by the United Nations regional commissions. Similar hearings will be held in Addis Ababa at the seat of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) from 24 to 25 June. The Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) will host the next hearings in Geneva, from 7 to 8 July. Hearings will also be held, from August to September, in the regions of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
The General Assembly designated its year 2000 session as the Millennium Assembly based on the conviction that the occasion constituted "a unique and symbolically compelling moment to articulate and affirm an animating vision for the United Nations in the new era". The hearings are a first step towards bringing this vision closer to reality.
A United Nations summit that will be held as part of the first United Nations General Assembly opening in the new millennium must be more than a mere celebratory event and should be seized as a chance for a moral recommitment to the United Nations Charter, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a just released report outlining his ideas for the planned forum.
"The occasion of the third millennium presents a timely opportunity for the only global organization, in terms of its membership as much as of its areas of work, to identify the challenges that it will face in the future and to engage in an imaginative exercise to strengthen a unique institution", the report states. It contains proposals for the Millennium Summit to be convened during the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly -- designated as "The Millennium Assembly of the United Nations".
The fifty-fifth session will begin in September 2000. Stressing that he has benefited from a wide range of consultations with Member States, members of specialized agencies and observers, the Secretary-General proposes that the overall theme of the Summit should be "The United Nations in the twenty-first century". He also suggests four sub-topics for the Summit: peace and security, including disarmament; development, including poverty eradication; human rights; and strengthening the United Nations.
The Secretary-General notes in his report that although the intergovernmental deliberations on the Summit's thematic framework are still ongoing, he felt it worthwhile to submit his recommendations now "with a view to prompting further intensified discussions".