Transcript of Press Encounter by the President of the General Assembly

United Nations Headquarters, New York


President of the General Assembly (PGA): Good afternoon, and thank you for coming. This is the first time I am addressing you as President of the 72nd session of the General Assembly, and I hope there will be many more meetings with you, to which I’m looking forward. You are familiar with my priorities. Let me very briefly mention that they are peace, prevention and avoiding of conflicts, migration and preparation of the compact to regulate migration; keeping momentum on the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change; the issue of human dignity and human rights; and the modern United Nations. That includes also the reforms that are going on and, of course, the timely adoption of a budget that will allow us to work.

I have informed the delegates this afternoon about the three overarching priorities or principles that will guide my work. First, a focus on people. That means keeping in mind that everything we do, what we do, is to improve the lives of people on this planet. Second, quality. Instead of pursuing a high number of events, let’s rather focus on the substance and the outcome of every meeting we organize here. And third, balance. There are many priorities and the list of these priorities will differ from region to region and from person to person, and therefore, I want a balanced approach to all three pillars of the UN’s work and all the programmes that we are going to tackle. And, of course, I should also mention transparency. I will respect the highest standards of ethics and transparency that have been introduced by my predecessors of course fully, and when possible, going even farther.

So, we are at the beginning of our work; this 72nd session will be a session of many firsts. We will negotiate the first intergovernmental compact on migration, we will negotiate the first document that will be presented by the Secretary-General reporting about the implementation of the two important resolutions linked to sustaining peace. We will hold the first high-level event on peace and prevention. Many Member States will sign the first document on elimination of nuclear weapons and also the first document on eliminating sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping. But at the same time, it will be a session of follow-ups, and as we say, sometimes the follow-up is more difficult than to launch something. But we need to stay the course, and follow-up means particularly continuing the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and implementation of other commitments stemming from the Paris Agreement on climate change. So I think these are the priorities as I see them, in a nutshell. And now I stand ready to answer your questions.

Question: As a Minister, you very much supported Georgia and Ukraine. What do you think now with your new status, keeping in mind Russia’s connections in these two countries?

PGA: I am now the President of the General Assembly and I will act and speak in that capacity. And of course, I will try to be the authentic voice of the 193 Member States.

Question: What is the agenda of this UNGA (UN General Assembly) about the conflict in Syria and with regards to counter-terrorism? Can you give us an idea? What do you hope?

PGA: First on Syria, we’ve seen encouraging developments on the ground, which we will support. You know, during the 71st General Assembly, the General Assembly undertook several initiatives related to Syria. We shall support this process – that’s very important – including of course the thorough investigation of war crimes that were committed. Speaking about counter-terrorism, we are here to support the newly appointed Under-Secretary-General who is responsible for counter-terrorism efforts. One of his priority tasks will be to streamline the work of the UN agencies dealing with counter-terrorism. You might know that there are 38 different agencies that have counter-terrorism as part of their portfolio, so his ambition is to streamline that effort. And we are here and I personally stand here ready to support him in his effort.

Question: What are your plans to further the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform?

PGA: The process will continue, and I wish to see a credible process and a meaningful outcome. I have been in touch with the co-facilitators, or the co-chairs of the process. I have been in touch with many groups of countries who are expressing their strong views with regard to this particular issue, and as I said, the process should continue, and I want to see a process that is meaningful and credible.

Question: What role do you expect China to play in the UN in the future?

PGA: I am glad to see China playing a very important role, being a leader on a number of global issues. And I wish to see China continue playing this role and speak, not only in its national capacity, but speak as a promoter of the UN agenda.

Question: About migration, the UN has no policy today. So what do you expect in this sense? You said it is on your agenda. So, what are your hopes?

PGA: It’s not only hopes. We have a very clear mandate here. We are tasked to prepare two global compacts – on refugees and on migration – and particularly the one on migration is a process led by the General Assembly. And I can tell you that I have already dedicated the largest portion of my working days to the issue of migration.  I’ll be personally presiding over many meetings. We are in the process of moving from the consultation phase into the stock-taking exercise and then the intergovernmental negotiations. We have a clear deadline, which is September 2018. And we have clear expectations from the world’s population because there is no need to explain to the citizens of this planet what migration is and why it is important to them because I believe every single person has been confronted with that phenomenon one way or another. And you’re right by saying that we do not have a global framework, we do not have a global policy, we do not have a global approach. We are in a reactive mode, and we are also acting more on a national basis than a global basis. The United Nations is logically the only platform that can provide this global answer to the issue of migration, to offer global governance. Because migration is a reality, migration is here to stay for many years as it has been here with us, so I really hope that we will be able to present a document that will show a clear direction and that will be accepted by the wider public.

Question: Your predecessor today has been named to a post by the Secretariat as Envoy on Oceans which is probably good for the oceans. But some people think it’s strange given that the PGA or GA is supposed to oversee the Secretariat. Can you commit when you would take a job with the Secretariat as soon as you leave this post, and how do you view the GA’s role in actually kind of overseeing the activities including with ethics and transparency of the Secretariat?

PGA: I’m glad to say that particularly my two last predecessors have set a very high standard for ethics and transparency in this office, which I fully intend to follow. And I said publicly, and I can repeat it here as well, that I have no personal agenda, I have no national agenda, I have no hidden agenda. I only have one agenda, which is the United Nations. So, all I am here for is to help promote the UN agenda.


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