16 September 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The outgoing President of the General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, presented an overview of the Assembly’s sixty-second session at a wrap-up Headquarters press briefing today, highlighting actions on climate change, financing for development, counter-terrorism, Millennium Development Goals and Security Council reform.

Characterizing Security Council reform as “not my dearest, but most difficult issue of the session”, Mr. Kerim described the “dramatic” conclusion of the session yesterday.  Intense negotiations on a draft decision contained in the report of the Open-Ended Working Group on the question of equitable representation on, and increase in, the membership of the Security Council had led to a breakthrough decision last night to commence intergovernmental negotiations, based on proposals by Member States, “in good faith, with mutual respect and in an open, inclusive and transparent manner”, on Security Council reform.  Member States had decided that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, the solution should garner the widest possible political acceptance among Member States. 

Lauding the courage and flexibility of the United Nations membership, which were critical for the adoption of that historic consensus decision, Mr. Kerim, who had chaired the Working Group, said that it would infuse dynamism into the process.  Several times yesterday, the Assembly had been close to voting on the text, but the President had indicated that he did not want to be part of a vote.  “I don’t want to be President of the General Assembly, which will divide membership on any issue, including the Security Council,” he said.

Stressing the importance of the consensus decision, he noted that consultations on Security Council reform had been ongoing for the past 15 years, and acknowledged that the legitimate interests of States and groups of States should be taken into consideration in the Assembly’s democratic process.  The Assembly provided the only opportunity for Member States to carry out discussions on an equal footing and, yesterday, it had made real progress.  Security Council reform should not be a goal in itself, however, but must be an integral part of an overall, encompassing and profound institutional reform of the United Nations.

Turning to climate change, he noted a shift in the political climate over the past year, “from ignorance to full awareness, and now commitments from Member States to negotiate within UNFCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), in order to fix the common goals for the future after the Kyoto Protocol”.  With three debates, the response to climate change had been vigorous.  Among other things, public-private partnerships had been introduced to tackle the implications of global warming.  Attention had also been focused on particularly vulnerable States, including small island nations.

Bearing in mind the strong nexus between climate change, financing for development and the Millennium Development Goals, the Assembly session had also had a strong focus on development, he said.  The sixty-second session had prepared the ground for next week’s discussion by world leaders of the Millennium Development Goals; it had organized a thematic debate and put an emphasis on the key issues of eradicating poverty, education and health.  As far as financing for development was concerned, the drafting of the outcome document for the upcoming Doha review conference was already at an advanced stage.

Referring to the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he said a fairer, more equitable world, with opportunities for all, would also be a safer, more stable and secure world.  Several days ago, the Assembly had adopted a resolution, which expressed the commitment of Member States, not only to follow up on the two-year-old Strategy, but also to strengthen their cooperation to curb terrorism.  Among the session’s other important achievements were “last-minute” resolutions on system-wide coherence and mandate review. 

The outgoing President also highlighted several important innovations and improvements, in particular the adoption of a report on the Assembly’s revitalization, which was an accumulated analysis of all the adopted resolutions and decisions on the question to date.  He also drew attention to the Assembly’s two first-ever thematic debates on human security and human trafficking.  Improvements had been made to strengthen working relations and communication between the Secretary-General and the General Assembly, and those improvements would benefit future discussions on management reform.

“The most important task of the President,” he said, “was to put Member States in a position to be the real driving force of the General Assembly.”  Member States should play an active role as full stakeholders in the work of the General Assembly.  “That’s the only way which will lead us always to keep this sense of the common purpose, and, without this sense of common purpose, nothing will function here as it should,” he said.

Responding to questions regarding the diplomatic deadlock that threatened the adoption of the budget for 2008-2009, Mr. Kerim reiterated his belief in a “one budget” approach instead of a piecemeal one, which did not allow for enough accountability or efficiency.  It was also necessary to further evaluate the organization of United Nations resources, including human resources.  Towards that goal, he noted the important revisions made during his presidency to shorten the time-frame for renovations included in the Capital Master Plan.

In terms of financing for the Office of the President of the General Assembly, he stressed the need for the Office to be completely under the umbrella of the Organization and not financed directly by Member States. 

In response to numerous questions on Security Council reform, he said support had emerged in the past year for an intermediary solution to Council reform, however, such progress was not exceedingly visible and often “disappeared in the forest of provisions and conclusions” made throughout the session.  Such an intermediary solution could be the outcome of the intergovernmental negotiations.  Reform was not about procedure, but rather about serious political considerations and commitments by Member States.

Regarding a question on climate change in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, he said that the United Nations needed to “deliver as one” and that all United Nations agencies and offices should synchronize their efforts to ensure the utmost effectiveness in their work in the area of climate change.

Asked what advice he would have for his successors, he said the Assembly President should devote all of his or her attention and energy to building cooperation between Member States and keeping the membership together.  The President’s role was as “an honest and fair broker” who facilitated negotiations and stayed outside internal struggles between groupings and parties.

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For information media • not an official record