16 September 2008
Press Conference

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

PRESS CONFERENCE BY president of sixty-third General Assembly

The world’s severe problems must be approached in a spirit of global sisterhood and brotherhood, Miguel d’Escoto, President of the sixty-third session of the General Assembly, said this afternoon as he answered correspondents’ questions at a Headquarters press conference following the opening of the new session.

“It sounds like something from songs or poetry, but it is the only way out of a quagmire of insane selfishness,” Mr. d’Escoto added, in response to a question about a political re-polarization of the world.  “Because we’re sinking.”

Arrogance had to be avoided; everyone was responsible for the sad state of affairs that the world found itself in and everyone had to take the necessary steps to bring the Earth back from the brink, he said.  There was a real danger for the extinction of the human species.  All dreams of planetary domination had to be abandoned to avoid that outcome.

Asked how he would pursue what seemed like a very ambitious agenda, including his stated desire to make General Assembly resolutions binding, he said “No one promised it would be easy”.  He found it absurd, however, that nations that promoted democracy did everything they could to prevent the democratization of the United Nations.  If it was too difficult to make all resolutions binding, it could start with some resolutions having that status.

Dialogue was the method he would use to pursue change, he added.  Progress would only happen if there was frankness and no fear of speaking out.  Sometimes the weaker countries were frightened from speaking up and forced to act against their wishes.  In addition, soul searching must be encouraged.

“We have a sick world,” he commented.  “What is the name of the sickness?  Selfishness,” he said, maintaining that, as a result of such soul-searching, consciousness must move from the narrow “I” to the inclusive “we”.

Asked if he considered Russia’s invasion of Georgia a war of aggression, he said that there were irregularities being committed all over the place.  He was concerned with the greatest irregularities, such as the war in Iraq, which had already caused the deaths of 1.2 million people.  Such wars of aggression must be stopped for the sake of defending life and the very existence of the United Nations.  When pressed on Georgia, he commented, however, that Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia was certainly aggression.

Asked if he thought that he had a special role as the first priest heading the Assembly, he said it was important for him to pursue interfaith dialogue in the interest of solving global problems.  He felt that there was an awakened interest in stewardship of the Earth among religious communities that could help strengthen the United Nations.

In regard to Security Council reform and other seemingly intractable issues, he said he would make sure that all States were heard and that he would also bring in outside voices.  He would take advantage of any opportunities to address the frustrations of those who felt that justice was not being pursued in the Council.

Asked if he would appear in the same venue with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, and if he agreed with him that a Member State should be wiped off the map, he said that he didn’t want war between or against any States, but he could appear in the same venue as the Iranian President.  Asked if Kosovo should be recognized, he stressed he was not speaking as a Foreign Minister, but as Assembly President.

In regard to the Middle East, he said that the biggest single failure of the United Nations was not fulfilling pledges made 62 years ago.  He maintained that there must be more effort to make sure Member States comply with United Nations decisions, and to prevent powerful Member States from shielding others so that they did not have to comply.  The problem of the Middle East remained unsolved, because some members did not want a solution, he added.

Asked how he could get results on such issues in the next 12 months given the way the Security Council was set up, he said he would appeal to everyone to do what they felt was right and not to continue with all “this monkey business, which has resulted in so much hurt to so many people”.

When he was put up for election, he said, he promised himself that, if he was elected, that he would work to stop the terrible situation in which trillions were spent on war, when such resources could be used to pull a large portion of the Earth’s population out of misery.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record