PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY

17 November 2005

PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY

17/11/2005
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The turning point had now been reached for implementing the 2005 Summit Outcome Document according to the pressing timeline Heads of State had set out in five key areas, the President of the General Assembly, Jan Eliasson (Sweden), told correspondents this morning, at a Headquarters press conference on the status of negotiations on those issues, which were the subject of ongoing informal consultations.

The first of those, he said, was the Peacebuilding Commission.  The Summit Heads had called for it to be operational by 1 January 2006, and the final stage of negotiations had been reached.  A draft resolution would be tabled at informal consultations tomorrow, followed by the two co-Chairs considering views next week on the two outstanding issues:  reporting lines and membership of the Organizational Committee.

On the proposed Human Rights Council, the second time-sensitive mandate, Mr. Eliasson said that a paper listing all options had been prepared for the purpose of narrowing options one by one until a single resolution remained.  Intensive negotiations would be held every two or three days, beginning next Wednesday on his return from consultations in Geneva.  Agreement on the Council was particularly desirable before the Human Rights Commission met in January to elect its bureau, set out its work programme, etc.  Headaches on the question centred on election method, size, composition and transition from the Commission to the Council.  Another issue was whether the Council should have a standing character to be in session year round.

The third issue on which Heads of State had requested the Assembly to make progress, the Assembly President went on, was to finalize a comprehensive convention on terrorism.  This was being handled by the Assembly’s Sixth (Legal) Committee.  The outstanding issues there were important, sensitive elements of international law concerning the right to self-determination and to resist occupation.  Agreement on the text was close, but the difficulty of resolving the remaining differences could not be underestimated.  The good news was that success was possible.  Yesterday, the Sixth Committee had brought off the first implementation of a Summit directive, that of broadening the scope of protection for United Nations and associated personnel.  The resolution on that sensitive document, which had been approved without a vote by consensus, would be brought to the plenary in early December.

He said the other two issues on which the Summit Heads of State had given the Assembly a priority mandate were reform of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and management reform.  He added that ECOSOC’s revitalization would occur as a natural outcome of implementing the Summit document.  On management reform, the questions involved, such as budget, management, accountability and oversight, were not just the interest of one country.  Particularly since the “oil-for-food” findings, all were interested in a United Nations that was well run.  He said a biennial budget was to be determined by early December, but no decisions had yet been made.

In the reform process as a whole, emphasis was placed on avoiding linkages while negotiating consensus.  A desire for balanced implementation in areas of interest was understandable, but delegations were encouraged to base decisions on the merits of issues rather than on tactical considerations, with an eye not only on consensus, but on “quality consensus”.

Concluding his review, Mr. Eliasson said other concerns such as human security, revitalization and reform of the Security Council were also under consideration.  But the aim now was to demonstrate to world leaders that the Summit Outcome was being taken seriously.  Overall, negotiations on the five pressing matters were serious, substantial and systematic, thanks to the co-Chairs.  Concrete outputs were in the form of drafts and papers serving as the basis for discussions, with an emphasis on working in an inclusive, open and transparent manner.  Negotiations would intensify over the next weeks.

Asked whether there was any real hope of achieving agreement on the Human Rights Council by the end of the year, Mr. Eliasson said work on the matter had begun on 28 September and by Christmas the answer would be known.  Delegations to negotiations were reminded of the mandate:  to set up the basic Council structure with no pressure to micromanage; some matters such as working methods could be decided by the new Council itself.

Pressed further about “spoilers” who could bring negotiations down, he said the question often came down to an attitude of national protectiveness of the principle of “non-interference” in internal national affairs.  However, the Organization was a reflection of the real world and the ever-growing fact of reliance on multilateral solutions to challenges.  “Bird flu, for example”, he said.  “Can you imagine a national solution to bird flu?”  But another reality, of course, was suspicion.  Those were the two poles on the issues being worked out.

What about stand-offs?  Mr. Eliasson was asked.  He said there was too much emphasis in the Organization on perceptions about the West versus developing countries.  Plenty of “cross-alliances” were evident.  It was time to start viewing countries as individuals and not just members of regions.  The question of double standards did exist, of course.  But the aim was to deal with human rights violations fairly and across the board, opening every country to the same scrutiny.

Asked if the issue of Security Council reform was dead, Mr. Eliasson referred to the Assembly’s debate on the question last week, with 67 speakers, and he said many good ideas had been presented, such as a proposal sponsored by Switzerland and others that had stimulated discussion and new ideas on previous proposals.  He said two aspects of the Council were being looked at in relation to reform:  its composition and how it worked.  In light of the Assembly debate, the need to listen to views and to remain in contact with Member States about the matter had come to the forefront.  As Assembly President, he was in a listening mode, taking the temperature and thinking of the question in relation to the basic issue at stake, that of questions concerning national security.

How long could he remain in a listening mode when such an important issue was being sidelined? he was asked.  “How and when are the essence of diplomacy”, he answered.  Timing on this highly sensitive issue was extremely crucial.  Right now, he was hearing from all sides that it was time to listen.

Was the power of developing countries being usurped by the Secretariat in the reform demands being made?  Mr. Eliasson said management reform was not an American issue, nor was it a matter of trying to cut the power of the Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committee or of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  There was the desire to address the “consensus culture” that had developed in the Fifth Committee to give virtually any country the power to stall progress.  And it wasn’t just the United States that wanted to address the issue; European States and Japan, among others, were pushing for those reforms.  The Organization’s mandate now did not involve just substance but the tools with which to achieve its objectives.

What would happen if the United States deadlocks on the budget because certain reforms aren’t carried out by the end of the current Assembly session? Mr. Eliasson was asked.  He said 21 December was the target date for agreement on the budget.  It could create a crisis if there were no budget by then, but it was a biennial budget and the issues at stake were priceless.  It was an ambitious reform.  The process was being pursued intensively.  The results would become evident between 15 and 20 December.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.