14 September 2010
Press Conference

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

Press Conference by President of Sixty-Fifth General Assembly


The incoming President of the General Assembly, in his first Headquarters press conference this afternoon, expressed hope that the sixty-fifth session would reaffirm the central place of the United Nations in global governance.

“All the big topics that concern our planet have to be discussed in the General Assembly,” Joseph Deiss of Switzerland said following his opening of the sixty-fifth session in the Assembly Hall, where he had emphasized that the seriousness of such topics should push all Member States to move beyond purely national interests and truly work for the benefit of all.  (See Press Release GA/10985)

He stressed that he was not afraid to handle the “hot potatoes” among those important topics.  “I have hands that can sustain quite high temperatures.”  However, his main aim was to refocus the Assembly in order to reach consensus on key issues that had an impact on people’s lives.  “We must establish priorities and do first things first,” he said, while acknowledging that all issues relevant to peace, security, development and human rights must eventually be addressed.

Among the priorities, he continued, was to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which he called “the most comprehensive programme ever launched to overcome poverty”.  The upcoming high-level meeting on that subject, scheduled for 20-22 September, would be one of the session’s highlights.  During that meeting, it would be important for delegations not just to look back, but to commit to a forward-looking action plan, cognizant that the Goals were reachable if the necessary measures were taken.  In particular, he expressed hope that strong commitments would be made on the Goals that were lagging, particularly those relating to child mortality rates and maternal health.

It was also critical this year to make progress towards sustainable development, he said, pointing out that important decisions must be taken on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable use of resources, in recognition that such challenges also offered economic opportunities.  Regarding climate change, in particular, it was important that agreements were worked out before the major meeting at Cancun, Mexico, at the end of the year, he stressed.  That issue required a more effective notion of global governance, because 192 delegations must be able to go home afterwards and show a win-win consensus solution that would actually be put into effect.

He went on to note that the discussion of global governance was still in its infancy, adding that he hoped to make it a major theme of the new session’s general debate, scheduled for 23-30 September.  Expressing hope also that speakers would bring new ideas, he said it was important to make global systems more representative, with the participation of all stakeholders, including all Governments and a wide range of civil society actors.

Stressing that the United Nations had the legitimacy, expertise and field presence to be the main venue for such governance, he cautioned that new actors, such as the Group of Twenty (G-20), threatened to marginalize it.  It was necessary to set up information transfer between such groups and the Organization’s general membership, he said, adding that the world body should work actively on such topics as the economy, which were often considered the exclusive purview of those groups, he said.  Governance also included such ongoing topics as Security Council reform, and review of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.

Responding to a question about the meaning of global governance, given the non-compulsory nature of General Assembly decisions, the President replied that all States demanded respect for their sovereignty, which meant at the same time that the Assembly lacked the power to impose its decisions.  That was why consensus had to be developed on the basis of benefits for all and commitments had to be taken seriously.

Asked his opinions on priority issues as well as such matters as changing the status of the European Union in the General Assembly, he stressed that such questions must be worked out by Member States, pointing out that the President’s role was that of neutral arbiter and facilitator.

Similarly, he noted, Kosovo was not on the agenda of the sixty-fifth session, because that question was under discussion between the European Union and Serbia.  Additionally, the Assembly would probably not discuss the current Middle East peace talks in order to give space to the negotiations.

Asked whether his Government had influence on the Office of the President through the payment of salaries and the appointment of Swiss nationals, Mr. Deiss said his Office was completely independent.  He was not taking a salary as Assembly President, though his income from his Government position would continue.  He stressed that he was not the President for Switzerland but for all 192 Member States.  (See also Press Release BIO/4238)

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For information media • not an official record