Press conference by General Assembly president
on September 2005 high-level meeting
Highlighting elements of the draft outcome document for the General Assembly’s high-level meeting in September, Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) said the draft document unequivocally reaffirmed the need to strengthen the United Nations and make it an effective tool to collectively meet the many challenges and threats facing the world today.
The high-level plenary meeting, scheduled for 14 to 16 September, at the beginning of the Assembly’s sixtieth session is being held to review implementation of the 2000 Millennium Declaration, as well as the integrated follow-up to other major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.
Noting that he would present the draft document to the Assembly in an informal session this afternoon, Mr. Ping said the draft outcome document reaffirmed that those threats and challenges were interrelated, requiring comprehensive and collective action, he said. The document’s overall architecture was based on the linkage between the three pillars of development, peace and security, and human rights. It was based also on the urgent need to strengthen the Organization so that it would be a strong foundation for effective multilateral activity.
A result of a collective effort, the document had been drafted following intense consultations in an attempt to reflect MemberState’s concerns, he added. As such, it contained a set of ideas and proposals regarding the four groups of questions at the centre of Member States discussions, namely development, peace and security, human rights and the rule of law, and strengthening the United Nations. Member States would be ready to take ambitious decisions on all fronts.
Regarding development, for example, he said there was general will to increase development assistance. On peace and security, Member States were prepared to take collective measures, especially concerning the protection of civilian populations in cases of genocide and other war crimes. Member States were also prepared to establish the Peacebuilding Commission to maintain peace.
The draft outcome document also expressed strong support for the Secretary-General’s strategy to eradicate terrorism in all its forms, he said. The adoption of a general counter-terrorism convention was also proposed no later than the middle of next year, during the course of the sixtieth session. Member States also committed to strengthening their actions regarding human rights.
All such matters, particularly the most delicate, would require ongoing consultation before broad-based agreement could be achieved, he said. Member States would be given two to three weeks to consider the draft outcome document and send it to their capitals. On 21 June, the Assembly would begin intensive consultations on the document that would continue until the second half of July.
In light of recent developments, namely the failure of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, what kind of collective measures was the President looking at in the nuclear field? a correspondent asked.
Responding, he said the document, which would be out in a matter of hours, contained issues on which there was consensus, despite the failure of the NPT review conference.
Asked to describe the significance of the outcome document, he said the document had been prepared by the Presidency and the facilitators on the basis of the comments on the Secretary-General’s report. A lengthy consultation process had been carried out with Member States on the Secretary-General’s proposals. The comments and proposals put forward by all Member States had served as a basis for the document, which, he hoped, would elicit the broadest consensus possible. The document would serve as a reference point, and two months of consultations would be held to finalize it.
He added that the outcome was a draft, not a final document, based on the process under way for one year now. While the document was likely to elicit broad-based consensus, members would have two months of consultations to refine it. He hoped that by July the Assembly would have arrived at wide-ranging consensus on the text. The Assembly would not discuss the document today. There would be no debate. It would be several weeks before discussion on the document commenced.
Responding to a question on human rights, he said Member States had agreed to say that today’s Geneva Human Rights Commission did not function to everyone’s satisfaction. There had been a proposal to raise that forum to the rank of a council. It would initially be a subsidiary organ of the Assembly, but the possibility of further promoting it to the level of principal organ had been left open. A certain number of criteria had been proposed, including those on the council’s size and election procedures. It would be up to the Assembly to determine the new council’s rules of procedure, however.
Regarding Security Council reform, he said that issue had been the most contentious, awakening great passions and certain attitudes. Consensus had not been reached. As President, his responsibility was to seek a consensus solution if possible.
Asked to be more specific about his approach to Security Council reform, he said he had asked the parties not to rush things. Intensive consultations would be held starting on 21 June. He believed that things would move faster after 21 June, and that there would be an acceleration of developments.
Asked how the draft document referenced the Security Council issue, he said the document did not offer a choice between two models, but restated the fact that the membership supported the Security Council reform process.
Were there things in the Secretary-General’s report that had been left out of the draft outcome document? a correspondent asked.
The Secretary-General’s report was an important element on which to base the Assembly’s work, he said. The report had been tabled for Member States’ comment, criticism and suggestions. The draft document was merely the outcome of all those comments and suggestions. He had tried to make proposals likely to elicit the broadest possible consensus. A proposal had been made, for example, to make the proposed human rights council a principle organ. Raising the council to that level had provoked a considerable array of objection, both formal and substantive. The Secretary-General said it could become a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly. On the basis of comments made, it might be possible to arrive at a consensus decision by which the council might have the status of a subsidiary organ of the Assembly within a number of parameters. It had also been stated that during the sixtieth session, the Assembly would examine the possibility of promoting that subsidiary organ to the rank of principle organ.
Regarding Security Council reform, was he concerned that the draft could get held up by divisions among Council members, and if so, how would he resolve that situation? a correspondent asked.
Responding, he said he took decisions not on the basis of his mood, but on the basis of the general situation. There was division among members. Differences of opinion persisted. His role was to try to overcome those difficulties, and he was convinced that they could overcome. There were three possibilities, namely not to take a decision, to take a decision that was contested, or to arrive at a consensus-based decision.
Asked whether the issue of Security Council expansion would be discussed at the level of heads of State in September, he said heads of State could not discuss in three days a topic that been the source of discussion for more than a decade.
Asked whether it was a question of “all or nothing”, he said that phrase was very dramatic and not a good approach for such a negotiation. “All or nothing” was basically arm wrestling. They were trying to negotiate, and that was a process. Some things could be adopted right away, others would require in-depth consideration. The document, for example, resolutely condemned terrorism and called on the Assembly to adopt a general convention on terrorism, setting a deadline for Member States to take a decision.
All of the questions before the Assembly were interdependent and had to be tackled holistically, he continued. Peace issues were related to human rights issues, which in turn, were linked to other matters. A global approach was needed. Not everything would be decided right away. As President, he would listen to all views, and try to move Member States in the direction of the broadest possible consensus.
Further responding to the issue of terrorism, he said there was unequivocal condemnation of terrorism or the attacking civilians. That condemnation was not a definition, but components of a definition. The document reaffirmed that the international community must condemn attacks on civilians. A counter-terrorism convention might be adopted which did not necessitate a definition. What he wanted to see was a deadline for the adoption of a convention.
Further elaborating on the timing of Security Council reform, he said he was not excluding any possibility. No one should be in a hurry and derail the process.
In terms of the reform package, how optimistic was he that, excluding the Security Council issue, significant reforms of the United Nations could be taken by the time world leaders left the September Summit? a correspondent asked.
Responding, Mr. Ping said he was an optimist by nature. He also had the feeling that everyone wanted reform, although maybe not the same type of reform. American public opinion expected reform on certain issues, such as rumours of corruption and abuse by Blue Helmets. Japanese public opinion was concerned with the issue of Security Council reform. The poorer countries hoped a decision to combat poverty would emerge. Hopes throughout the world in terms of public opinion were great and would force governments to take decisions.
* *** *