PRESS CONFERENCE BY GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

21 December 2005

PRESS CONFERENCE BY GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

20/12/2005
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press conference by GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

 

(Issued on 21 December 2005.)

With today’s adoption by consensus of one of the key elements of the United Nations reform, the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission, the General Assembly had taken an important step in living up to the agreement of world leaders at the 2005 World Summit, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference today.

Joined by the Co-Chairs of the informal consultations on the Peacebuilding Commission, Ellen Loj of Denmark and Tuvako Nathaniel Manongi of the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as Mr. Eliasson’s Deputy Chef de Cabinet, Anna-Karin Eneström of Sweden, Mr. Eliasson said he was extremely satisfied that the Assembly had taken the decision on the Peacebuilding Commission without a vote.  By that action, the international community was breaking new ground in terms of bringing political, economic and other elements into the process of maintaining peace.

The negotiations on the Peacebuilding Commission had been intense, he said.  While he and the Co-Chairs had had to make difficult, sometimes even painful choices, what had been achieved was “groundbreaking”, namely the establishment of a mechanism that would ensure sustained attention to conflict areas.  Some 50 per cent of conflicts that had ended over the past 20 years had erupted again with varying levels of vehemence.  By ensuring that the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and other actors worked together on the ground, he hoped that statistic would change considerably. 

He said the decision to establish the Commission built on a basic premise of the Outcome Document, namely no security without development and no development without security.  Making the Peacebuilding Commission operational would have several positive effects, including better cooperation and cohesion in the field.  In that regard, speakers in today’s meeting had expressed the urgent need to have that coordination and resource mobilization on the ground.

Member States had also raised several questions, including issues of principle on the mandates of the different organs and the borderlines in their work, he said.  As the Assembly charted new territory, it was understandable that such issues were raised.  He had anticipated such statements, as the international community was in the process of creating a new institution -- a subsidiary body established concurrently by the Assembly and the Security Council.

He said he hoped the international community would move quickly to the selection of representatives from the different bodies and that the important new body would receive support both in terms of staffing and funding.  Stressing again his satisfaction that the Assembly had acted without a vote, he said he wished to continue with the reform effort in that same spirit.

How would the creation of the Commission be able to sustain financial commitments to post-conflict situations? a correspondent asked. 

Responding, he said it was important to remember that the Peacebuilding Commission was an advisory body to other organs.  The Peacebuilding Commission would have a catalytic role and would be dependent on the resources of the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the regional organizations and the humanitarian community.  While a fund would be established, it would not be in the magnitude of the sums of money that would come from the respective actors.  It was the sustained attention from the different actors that would bring about the marshalling of resources he expected.

It was premature to name which countries would be the first cases on the Commission, he said, in response to another question.  He could answer the question indirectly, however, by noting that in the course of the very good, down to earth consultations by the Co-Chairs, representatives from such countries as Burundi, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Haiti, had been brought into the room by video and in person.  There was strong interest in the Commission from Africa, signifying the concrete need for the Commission’s establishment.

In the statements following action today, a pattern of resentment had emerged, with many viewing the reform process as a way of taking authority away from the Assembly (and transferring it) to the Council, a correspondent said.  Would that sentiment keep coming up or would the Assembly have the success it had today?

Responding, Mr. Eliasson said he had not heard so much resentment but rather legitimate concerns about the different roles of the different organs when they worked more closely in practical terms.  It was natural to have such a dialogue on the different mandates and roles.  He hoped the relationship between the various actors would be harmonious so that the Commission could perform effectively.  As General Assembly President, he thought it was important to underline the Assembly’s authority.  The Assembly was negotiating the different elements of the Outcome Document, including the Human Rights Council and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) reform.  “It is in our hands”, he said. 

Ambassador Loj added that the country-specific format of the Peacebuilding Commission would be crucial.  Men, women and children in post-conflict countries were waiting for the Commission to commence its work.  That was what counted.  It was not only a question of more resources, but of more efficient use of existing resources.  That was why the Secretary-General had identified a gap in the system.  The purpose of the Commission was to fill that gap.

Asked whether States were making headway on the issues of management reform and the Human Rights Council, he noted that the Assembly was in the very last days of its work before the holidays.  The negotiations on the Human Rights Council proceeded well, although difficulties remained.  The two Co-Chairs of those negotiations had presented a draft resolution text yesterday and Member States were now consulting with their capitals on that text.  He hoped progress would be made on outstanding issues in the coming days.  It was up to the Co-Chairs how to proceed.

Discussions on management reform were going on intensely, he added.  Member States were working day and night on the issue of budget, and he hoped to finalize work on that soon.  The Organization needed a budget before the end of the year.  On ECOSOC there were very good signs.  He hoped to have by the early part of next year an agreement on elements related to ECOSOC revitalization.  By tomorrow he hoped to have a decision in the Assembly on the HIV/AIDS high-level meeting, which would take place at the end of May.  The Central Emergency Response Fund had been established last week.  It was not a sombre picture and today’s development would give momentum to the Assembly’s continued work.

Responding to a question on budget reforms, he said every delegation understood the seriousness of the task before it.  He hoped the Assembly would be able to finalize work on the Ethics Office, which could positively affect the discussion on the budget.  There was a clear realization on the part of members of the need to adopt a budget before the end of the year to avoid a financial crisis. 

The success of the Commission would be measured on the ground, he said in response to another question.  As a field person himself, he had seen far too many examples of what happened after the cameras disappeared and the public’s attention faded.

In the case of a conflict situation, where a Security Council resolution could not be implemented, what would be the Peacebuilding Commission’s role? a correspondent asked. 

Responding, he said every organ had its own mandate.  The Security Council’s role could be more operational in the stage where a conflict was fresh and when the houses were still burning.  Moving to the area of development and reconciliation, for example, other actors would become involved.  It was a natural progression which he hoped would be harmonious. 

Some political observers, while welcoming the Commission’s establishment, saw it as a cumbersome, costly body, and that greater efforts should be given to conflict prevention.  Did Mr. Eliasson think there was room for improving preventive diplomacy and conflict prevention? a correspondent asked.

He replied that he hoped the United Nations would work more in the spirit of prevention.  Much had been lost in terms of human lives, money and even the Organization’s reputation.  That did not, however, replace the need for a Peacebuilding Commission.  The Assembly was asking for limited resources and a small support office.  It was crucial that the Commission be seen in the larger context.

Ms. Loj said it was important to do both.  The reality on the ground reflected the fact that more needed to be done, both in terms of conflict prevention and peacebuilding.  One could not underestimate the importance of having the relevant actors around a table.  She had attended many pledging conferences.  From her experience, the problem was often a lack of sufficient follow-up and priority setting. 

The concern was legitimate, Mr. Manongi added.  The Danish-Tanzania draft had aspirations for the idea of conflict prevention.  The process, however, was a negotiated one.  He hoped that in the outcome, even in its current structure, post-conflict peacebuilding was part of the prevention process.

Regarding the size of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said the size of the body was a legitimate concern.  There had been difficult decisions to make on that issue, which related to the need to ensure the Commission’s legitimacy.  The feeling was that geographic equity and regional balance was needed to ensure the Commission’s legitimacy. 

Responding to a question on the issue of operationalizing the Commission, Ms. Loj said she hoped colleagues would translate their commitment to contribute to the country-specific formats the Commission was establishing.  It was in the country-specific format that the real work was taking place.

Asked what role the non-governmental organization community would play, Mr. Eliasson said the preambular and operational part of the resolution encouraged the Commission to consult with civil society, non-governmental organization s, including women’s organizations, and the private sector.  They had had close consultations with civil society, who had supported the Commission.  It was important to have all actors on board.

* *** *

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