Past Presidents

54th Session: Theo-Ben Gurirab

Photo of Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, President of the United Nations General Assembly’s 54th session. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Theo-Ben Gurirab was elected President of the United Nations General Assembly’s 54th session on 14 September 1999. At the time of his election, he was serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Namibia.

Theo-Ben Gurirab presided the General Assembly’s 54th session from 14 September 1999 to 5 September 2000.

Also on 14 September 1999, the General Assembly elected 21 Vice-Presidents for the 54th session:


Despite advances in health care, education, science, technology and the ratification of international conventions and protocols governing the legal rights and social welfare of children, their lives were daily at risk of being snatched away by the cruelty and indifference of adults, Theo-Ben Gurirab, the newly elected President of the General Assembly, said this afternoon in his opening statement at the start of the fifty-fourth session.

"The ever-increasing numbers of children forcibly turned into soldiers to serve in national armies, tribal, ethnic or racial gangs should outrage us all", he stated. Prolonged civil conflicts relied heavily on child soldiers. Children had even come to be "preferred recruits" over adults. The reasons given were insidious and immoral -- children were numerous and readily available, more malleable, impressionable, learned quickly, were small and agile and required less food and supplies than adults. Their horrendous fate demanded that the United Nations show renewed commitment and redouble its efforts as the repository of humanity's conscience and social justice in the world.

On the ongoing reform of the Organization, he said that the process should be consistent with the end product desired by everyone, including the review of the veto power of the Council. "At the end, we should be satisfied that the United Nations belongs to all its Member States collectively and individually", he stated. While reform negotiations must continue, any quick fix which smacked of apartheid could not be tolerated.

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