|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Outgoing General Assembly President
Welcoming the General Assembly’s accomplishments over the past 12 months – especially the spirit of consensus shown by Member States on issues ranging from achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to ensuring long-term support for disaster-struck Haiti and Pakistan — Ali Abdussalam Treki, the 192-member body’s outgoing President, today said there was nevertheless “room for improvement,” especially to strengthen it’s working methods and reassert its authority on the international stage.
“If we want the United Nations not to be on the periphery of the main challenges of the day, its working methods should be improved,” he said, stressing that the Assembly’s role and authority should be reinforced to its full potential, in line with the Charter. In a Headquarters press conference wrapping up his tenure as President of the sixty-fourth General Assembly, Mr. Treki also said that throughout the past year, the Assembly had accomplished “major achievements”, and he was proud to note that all deliberations had taken place in the spirit of consensus-building.
He said the work of the session had also been enhanced by the engagement of world leaders and their strong commitment, which had reinforced dialogue and common understanding. It had also recorded substantial progress on several fronts — from sustainable development issues, Millennium Development Goal, and climate change, to the challenges of small island developing States and on questions related to the situation in the Middle East.
Among other achievements, the Assembly had also adopted a resolution on system-wide coherence that had led to the establishment of a single United Nations agency for women, known as UN Women. Mr. Treki said Member States had also made strides in international peace and security, peacebulding, human rights, maritime piracy, organized crime, human trafficking and the effects of strengthening criminal justice. It had also addressed the ongoing negative effects of the world financial crisis, as well as such matters as United Nations reform, including reform of the Security Council and revitalization of the General Assembly.
“Through the past 12 months, as mother nature has wreaked devastation and havoc across the world, the General Assembly responded promptly and generously, mobilizing support for natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan, and other regions of the world,” demonstrating its relevance in so doing, he continued.
Specifically on the Millennium Development Goals, he was pleased to announce that the Assembly had reached an agreement on the outcome of next week’s high-level three-day review meeting. Having presided over negotiations on that document, Mr. Treki said Member States would indeed promise to make every effort to achieve the Goals by their 2015 deadline, including through actions, policies and strategies defined in the text in support of developing countries.
Such actions would especially target those countries lagging most behind and where the Goals were most off track, thus improving the lives of the world’s poorest people. Overall, he said, Member States were convinced that the Goals could be achieved, including in the poorest countries, “with effective implementation and intensified collective action by all”. He was honoured to co-chair that meeting with his successor, Joseph Deiss, President of the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session.
Reiterating his thanks to all that had contributed to making the Assembly’s deliberations effective over the past year, and expressing gratitude to his staff, Member States and the Secretariat, he said: “Presiding over the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly has been a great privilege and honour for me.”
Responding to questions, he said the outcome document had been agreed with “very good” cooperation between donors and recipient countries. In most cases, donors, even those still coping with the fallout from the financial crisis, had pledged to stand by their commitments. At the same time, the member States of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China had also pledged to do their part. As for calls to reform the global financial architecture, he told one reporter that the issue had not been the focus of the discussions on the document. Still, when those talks got under way in earnest, the United Nations should play a leading role. Such decisions should not be left to “just 8 or 20 countries,” he stressed.
Asked how the United Nations, or the wider international community, could help countries recently struck by major natural disasters, such as Haiti and Pakistan, achieve the Goals, Mr. Treki said the Organization must find ways to expand and enhance its fund-raising sources and capabilities. It must also bolster emergency funding mechanisms, so that responses could be faster, more comprehensive and sustained longer.
Specifically on Pakistan, he told a correspondent that the United Nations had indeed responded quickly. The Secretary-General and other senior officials had visited the country’s flood-devastated regions. The Assembly had met and called for more sustained assistance and international engagement. Further, he believed that a meeting on Pakistan would take place during the upcoming high-level review of the Millennium Development Goals, and that a donor’s conference was set to take place in Belgium later this year.
As for strengthening the General Assembly’s authority, he said such authority rested in the body’s universal membership. There were 192 States in the Assembly, as opposed to 15 members on the Security Council. If the will of the wider international community was given less consideration than the decisions made by a small group of countries, “this is not justice”, he said, underscoring that both reform of the Security Council and revitalization of the General Assembly were necessary.
Continuing, he noted that there had been some solid progress on Security Council reform during his tenure and he hoped the sixty-fifth session could further narrow the gap in positions towards a solution. To a correspondent who recalled that Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi had said no change could take place at the United Nations unless the current form of the Security Council was scuttled, and that such a task might be “nearly impossible” because of the entrenched position of powerful countries, Mr. Treki said that it was not only Mr. Qadhafi who wanted reform of the United Nations and its Security Council.
Indeed, it was now clear that the majority of United Nations Member States wanted immediate change, especially since the Organization’s membership had risen dramatically over the past 60 years, and the balance of economic power in the world had changed. The issue must be approached in the spirit of consensus, and that would take time, especially under the rules of the Charter. “If you ask this question to the membership today, you would certainly get a two thirds majority backing Security Council reform,” Mr. Treki said, but such a decision would need to be affirmed by the Council’s permanent five, veto-wielding members: China; France; Russian Federation; United Kingdom; and the United States.
He went on to stress that the Office of the General Assembly President had very limited powers and a relatively small budget — he believed some $280,000 for all its activities for a 12-month period. A resolution before the Assembly aimed to strengthen the Assembly President’s power and increase the budget. “We did what we could. [But] I wish more could have been done, especially toward reform of the General Assembly,” he said. He had very good cooperation from all Member States, the Security Council and the Secretariat.
Asked about the United States engagement with the United Nations under President Barack Obama, Mr. Treki said it was too early to judge the overall status of such engagement. At the same time, he was pleased with President Obama’s statements emphasizing that Washington would work with the United Nations and that solutions to the world’s problems could only be found collectively.
On other matters, he was pleased President Obama was bringing together Middle East leaders to seek a viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That was not an easy task, as all knew, and the Assembly and the wider international community hoped those negotiations were successful. He added that the United States had also done good work in Haiti and Pakistan. Its position had changed on climate change, but it needed to become more engaged. “There is reason to be optimistic about the engagement of the United States,” he said.
Finally, Mr. Treki stated that he had always sought peace throughout the world, and as for the Middle East, that could only be achieved by ending occupation and settlement construction, and through both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute making a concerted effort to achieve a peaceful settlement. A peaceful settlement was in the interest of both parties. Specifically regarding Israel, he said that country should work harder to make its neighbourhood a peaceful and secure place. At the same time, peace could only be achieved through the actions of both sides.
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