United Nations Headquarters, New York
Distinguished members of the press,
Before starting I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope 2021 will be much better than 2020. I wish you good health, prosperity and happiness during the year. It’s good to see you all, as I mark a personal milestone. Today is exactly four months since my first day in office and five months since my arrival in New York. So I wanted to meet you to share with you reflections on the four months in office, and share with you what is waiting for us during the second part of my tenure. I have been immensely proud of and delighted by, what the General Assembly has been able to accomplish thus far. With thanks to our Member States, we have shown that the United Nations is back from the horrible several months where the United Nations couldn’t meet, couldn’t have meetings and from the world’s perspective the UN looked as if it was not as efficient as it should have been. Taking advantage of this conference and with you, who are the eyes and ears of international public opinion, I would like to thank to all Member States, for their full and comprehensive endorsement of, the rules-based international order and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, during the opening segment of the 75th session.
Of course, we have faced a lot of difficult circumstances this session. Because of COVID-19, we have encountered daunting operational challenges. But through it all, I have pushed for – and have been happy to see – the General Assembly’s important activities continue throughout the main part of the session. The Assembly in that respect, showed that, even under the most trying of circumstances, it can deliver on behalf of the people it serves. This is a testament to Member States’ enduring commitment to the United Nations, which they voiced so clearly last September. From my first day, even during my election process, I have advocated for a return to the General Assembly’s normal way of working. And we have succeeded in the sense that the Assembly has been meeting regularly and taking action on decisions and resolutions in person. So far, during the main part of the session, the General Assembly convened 80 times, including formal and informal plenaries, adopted 257 resolutions and 67 decisions. Main Committees, which are in a way the pillar of General Assembly work, concluded their work, ably adapting to the COVID related circumstances through hybrid working methods, combining virtual and in person meetings. And the Assembly considered all the reports submitted by its Main Committees; the other principal organs of the UN – namely ECOSOC and the International Court of Justice; and the Human Rights Council and other Courts and Tribunals. So the elections for the Human Rights Council and International Court of Justice were successfully held in person as well, the latter in parallel with the Security Council.
We started the 75th session with the high-level fortnight in late September. That was also in vey exceptional circumstances. For the first time in the history of this organization, global leaders were not able to be in the General Assembly Hall in person. But I am pleased to recall that this did not prevent multilateralism from operating at the highest levels. Heads of States, Ministers, Heads of Governments, laid down a complete guidance, on steps needed to overcome the challenges we face. The fact that record number of world leaders chose to address the Assembly this session, was a testament of the power and relevance of the United Nations. Indeed, I think no other body has yet the potential to address global challenges like that. The very first resolution that the General Assembly adopted this session was the Declaration on the Commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN. With that landmark document, which we will refer to in many other occasions during this year or the coming sessions, Member States expressed their strong commitment to work together to strengthen coordination and global governance for the common future of present and coming generations. The Preamble of the UN Charter that was signed by all Member States, Observer States, EU, Secretary General and me, on the occasion of the UN Day, and it is now displayed at the entrance of the GA Hall, as another solid symbol of this commitment.
With the first ever Summit on Biodiversity on 30 September, we set the stage for a global movement for Urgent Action on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development. The Summit was an important step in building political momentum towards the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, to be adopted at COP15 in Kunming, China. You know that, one of my personal favorites among the high-level fortnight events was the high-level meeting to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. This meeting showed that, we have a long way to go; while it also displayed our commitment to accelerate the realization of gender equality. I will continue to focus towards that goal during my term in office. Meanwhile, the General Assembly clearly committed to nuclear disarmament from its inception. In fact, the very first resolution passed in 1946 aimed to achieve global nuclear disarmament. In that context, I was happy to preside over the UN High-level meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons last October.
In terms of other notable achievements, the General Assembly successfully held its 31st special session on today’s most important global issue: the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time, we tried a new format because of the inconvenience of not being able to have everyone present in the General Assembly Hall. For 12 hours, we were connected online with people across the globe. They were seen in the General Assembly Hall on the screens. So they were with us, we were with them. I think this is technically and business-wise, one of the great successes of the UN General Assembly. We brought together Member States, a diverse group of UN leaders, top scientists, civil society and others, to share information and strategize about how to beat the pandemic and address its devastating effects as a united international community. We will use this format in other meetings if this situation continues so we can have those groups with us in the General Assembly Hall, online and with the world watching what is going on through UN WebTV. These discussions will continue to dominate the remainder of this session, most probably we have to will end the 75th session with what we have in-hand now. The reality is we will probably continue in this format until the end of the 75th Session.
The Assembly has been holding all summits and high-level meetings mandated for this session. This is very important. We did not postpone or cancel any meeting. That’s why I am calling this a success of the Member States, the United Nations and United Nations General Assembly. There have been some tough moments as well . For example, budget discussions have traditionally wraps up before Christmas. This year, for the first time in history, the General Assembly did not adopt the UN’s regular budget until the very last day of the year. But when I saw that the negotiations weren’t progressing fast enough, I expressed my concern in a written format and explained how severely the UN would have to curtail its work if we didn’t have a favorable outcome. I was pleased to see that message helped the delegates, who were working, at some point, almost 24 hours a day, to move us forward – and just in time. Given the adverse working conditions due to the lack of in person negotiations, I consider that result, even at the last moment, to be an important success for multilateralism and our organization. Throughout it all, we have been following mitigation measures and have been happy to see that there have been no known COVID-19 transmissions in the General Assembly Hall – or anywhere at the UN Headquarters. And I think the UN General Assembly has been an example to all other international fora and they are asking us how we are handling the General Assembly work here, so that they can also apply it in parliaments, or large gatherings over the world. We are proud we have found a way, respecting mitigation measures and having the General Assembly working in person for four months now. But to be safe and to ensure business continuity in all circumstances last November, the Assembly agreed on a procedure to take decisions in case in-person meetings are not possible – we now have possibility of e-voting which is an important milestone, if something again happens, we will not have the United Nations General Assembly only depend on the silence procedure but also have e-voting to solve problems and pass resolutions.
Distinguished members of the press,
Regarding my personal initiatives, I’ve pinned them to my priorities.
Obviously, COVID-19 is currently the biggest global challenge. But we face the deepest global recession since the Great Depression and the broadest collapse in incomes since 1870. The pandemic has created a socioeconomic crisis as well, it hijacked our development trajectory and hit vulnerable countries especially hard. That includes countries crippled by debt, dependent on dwindling tourism and suffering the loss of foreign investments and export earnings, among others. In that regard, I created a Board of Advisors on Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, to ensure that the views and concerns of these most vulnerable countries are reflected throughout this session. This is under my responsibility and the meetings are going very well, I have chosen very qualified, well known people to be Members of this Board and we will continue to stand with countries in need and keep Member States informed of my efforts and also the Board’s efforts. On that point, I should also note our collaboration with the distinguished President of ECOSOC, Ambassador Munir Akram. ECOSOC is a very important body in the UN system. Through our monthly meetings and other joint endeavors, we seek to coordinate our activities as Presidents and the activities of our respective organs in support of sustainable development, with a special focus on the developing world.
Secondly, I am sure you are aware that gender equality and empowerment of women is a priority area for me from the beginning and also of my Presidency. Thus, meanwhile, women and girls have been particularly hurt by COVID-19, including through job losses and increased domestic abuse during lockdowns. That was instrumental in my decision to establish a Gender Advisory Group to help me better incorporate gender equality and women’s empowerment into the General Assembly’s work. The aim of improving the lives of women and girls around the globe. And I was proud to be named as an International Gender Champion. I have shared the outcomes of the initial work of these two Advisory bodies with Member States and also with you . I will continue to provide updates, as we progress during the session.
Thirdly, I also continued the tradition of Morning Dialogues, to encourage Member States to discuss, openly and frankly, the most topical issues of our time. So far, I have organized 4 Morning Dialogues, on (in order):
– LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS;
– digital cooperation and connectivity;
– reform and revitalization of the UN General Assembly.
The fifth one will be held next week on energy. Not to my surprise, I find those informal discussions with Permanent Representatives extremely enriching and enlightening, full of creative ideas, best practices and lessons learned. So shared the summaries of these discussion with Member States and with all those interested.
The need for multilateralism is especially crucial for the largest ever global vaccine campaign. Vaccines must be available to everyone and accessible to all, fairly and equitably. Ensuring that requires political will. That’s why I launched my #Vaccines4All initiative. COVID-19 will not be beaten one country at a time. And vaccines only work if a critical threshold of people are covered. It is therefore a moral and practical imperative that we cover all people, with particular support for the poorest and most vulnerable.
So this is what we did during the first four months in office. Now I would like look ahead and share with you some of the planned meetings and programs we have coming up.
– First, a joint thematic event on the Least Developed Countries, which I will host together with the President of ECOSOC;
– I’ll also convene the High-level Meeting on Middle Income Countries, which have been uniquely challenged by the pandemic – including because of structural issues related to debt and access to financing for development;
– 2021 is shaping up to be the year of the environment, for the first time ever COP-level events on climate change, biodiversity, and desertification, land degradation and drought are taking place in the same year;
– Accordingly, in April the General Assembly will host a High-level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought. Land is the foundation of our societies. And productive land is a cornerstone to global food security and a healthy environment. And yet this resource is under threat. This event will give us a chance to assess progress made during the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification, and to map a path forward;
– Linked to land degradation, is the need to protect our planet’s water resources. In that regard, I will convene a High-level Meeting on Water and Sustainable Development which will take place in March;
– The General Assembly has also mandated a High-level Dialogue on Energy, at summit level, in September. Currently, 789 million people still have no access to electricity and 2.8 billion no access to clean cooking. We need to turn the global COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to build back better and accelerate energy transition;
– In terms of some other events, we will convene a thematic debate on digital technologies and connectivity on 27 April. That will be an opportunity to address the digital divide, which has deepened inequality and hurt youth in particular;
– We will also have a high-level event in May on the contribution of culture to sustainable development. Given the creative economy’s dynamism, I aim to highlight the potential of culture to accelerate SDG implementation as well as COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts;
– In June, we will hold a second special session, this time to discuss threats posed by corruption. Corruption erodes trust in institutions and undermines progress on all of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is my hope that this three-day special session will provide an opportunity to shape the global anti-corruption agenda for the next decade – by advancing bold and innovative approaches;
– Also in June, we are planning to convene a high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS. The meeting and its political declaration will let us take stock of our efforts these past few decades and bolster our fight against the AIDS epidemic and its impacts;
– You can also expect the High-level Thematic Debate on “Urban safety, security and good governance: making crime prevention a priority for all”. That will be organized this year together with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The 2030 Agenda recognizes the need to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This debate will look into how we can better prioritize safety and get rid of the vulnerabilities that are exploited by criminals;
– Last but not the least, throughout all our endeavors in the General Assembly, I will continue to work closely with Member States. But I also value inputs from and collaboration with other stakeholders, including the civil society. In that regard, I plan to have a dialogue with civil society next month.
Distinguished members of the press,
An important process ahead of us in this session is the selection and appointment of the Secretary General. As you are aware, we will soon launch this process officially together with the President of Security Council through a joint letter. In 2015, the General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution that set out a new transparent, open and inclusive process to select and appoint the Secretary-General. Secretary-General Guterres has informed me and the President of Security Council that he is available to serve a second term. There may or may not be other candidates, which is up to the Member States. In any case, I am committed to ensuring that the selection process remains guided by the principles of transparency and inclusivity. I will work closely with the President of the Security Council and ensure that all relevant General Assembly mandates are fully implemented. And I am expecting the candidates, or candidate, to come to the General Assembly with a vision statement and have an interactive dialogue meeting, before going to the Security Council to get elected or selected, it will be good that they present their vision to the General Assembly and Member States and I will make sure this will happen.
Before answering your questions, I’d just like to say that it has been an immense pleasure to serve the United Nations and its Member States for the past four months. It has reinforced my firm belief in the value of multilateralism in overcoming global challenges. The General Assembly is the world’s premier political forum, where every UN Member State has a voice. Last year we marked the 75th anniversary of the Organization. And amidst the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, I have been working to ensure the continued functioning of the General Assembly and the fulfilment of its mandates– so that the very real problems being faced by people across the globe can be discussed and addressed.
We may not be able to physically gather and travel, as we did at this time last year. We may not be able to rely on the spontaneous in-person interactions, that I think are so helpful for diplomacy. But I have seen the commitment of Member States and the United Nations system firsthand. I have seen that the debilitating sickness, cannot stop the important work of this fundamental organization. I have been inspired. And that inspiration will continue to fuel my desire to serve the people who are counting on the United Nations.
Thank you very much.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question: Thank you very much, Mr. President, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association. Thank you for doing this press conference. And we hope we’ll see you often in this room. I have a follow-up question to what you just said about the process of selecting the next Secretary-General. And then I’ll ask my question. My follow-up question is: You said that the joint letter from the General Assembly and the Security Council would be sent soon. How soon? And will there be a deadline in there for countries to submit candidates? And what will that deadline be?
And my question is about the mob attack on the United States Capitol. I think we’d all like to hear your reaction personally and the implications for security and the safety of staff at United Nations Headquarters. Thank you.
President of the General Assembly (PGA): Concerning the Secretary-General’s selection and the election, I have mentioned a part of it. Let me share with you what happened until now and what I think will happen in the coming days or months. First of all, I wrote a letter to the Secretary-General, asking if he’s available for a second term in office or not. And he replied to me, and also sent a letter to the President of the Security Council, saying that he’s available for this.
So, the same day – it was on Monday – I talked to the President of the Security Council, the Permanent Representative of Tunisia.
And we had a meeting on Tuesday, and I shared with him a draft for the letter through we’re going to start the process together. He shared this letter with the members of the Security Council, and we are hoping that we will be able to sign this letter together before the end of the month. And then the process starts.
And then, what I’m planning to do is… As I mentioned previously, I would make sure that any candidate or the candidates come to the General Assembly for an interactive dialogue meeting and share their vision and explain what they’re going to do during the five-year term in office. And there will be a question and answer part. It will give, I think, the necessary power of the General Assembly to the Secretary-General before getting selected and during the five-year term. So, when selection takes place in the Security Council, then, of course, it will come back to the General Assembly.
On your question on if there is a deadline for announcing the candidature, I think we don’t legally have the right to impose any dates. Any country can present a candidate – even one month before January. It’s legally possible. Politically, what I’m going to do is… As soon as we start the process, I will announce that, for the first wave of candidates, I will have them in the General Assembly. So, once we have this with one or however many candidates there are… Last time, there were 11; all of them came to the General Assembly separately. And then at the last moment, there was another one – one month before the taking over in October. You very well know. So that’s why I’m dividing into waves. The first wave I’m planning to do sometime in April or the beginning of May. If there are other candidates announced after my first wave of meetings of the General Assembly, then we will have a second wave. The important thing is that they come to the General Assembly and also share their vision with the General Assembly and member countries.
Concerning the storming of the US Capitol in Washington, I think the peaceful transition of power is a fundamental feature of democracy. And at the time, I expressed sadness and concern over those troubling developments on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I also, in that same statement, mentioned my belief that peace and respect for democratic processes would prevail in our host country.
I think I should also mention here that I was heartened that the US democratic process was able to proceed, and later that day, Congress certified the election of President Joe Biden. I look forward to close cooperation between the General Assembly and the incoming US administration. And I am really very happy that President-elect Biden, in reply to my request to have a phone conversation, sent a very important letter, at least on my behalf, which not only makes a good example for this relationship to be established, but also if you read it from another perspective, it also shows the new US administration’s strong will to cooperate with the United Nations. And perhaps we will have in many cases… With the participation of the host country, we might have better solutions to problems, and we can have a new methodology for dealing with problems. Regarding the warnings of armed protests, I think the US is one of the world’s largest democracies, and I trust that the Americans will respect the outcome of the election.
Question: A big part of your job should be a trip abroad. Do you plan any trip or do you plan any virtual trip as we saw with António Guterres in the UK recently? And second question, how do you see the next General Assembly? I mean, the high-level segment in September. I know you would not be President anymore at this time, but you have to prepare it. Do you see it like last year, virtual, or have you any other idea?
PGA: Of course, one part of this office is to travel to countries, meet with people, show the UN flag, and listen to them and bring their messages back to the United Nations General Assembly. And I really miss this because, as a diplomat and as a politician for 10 years, I am the example of a person who benefited from these meetings and in-person human touches, if I may say so. But the existing circumstances have not allowed us to make any travels at all. But with my team, we’re planning travels abroad. Of course, with the condition that things develop positively, that we will be able to make these visits.
Of course, it would be nice for the President of the General Assembly to visit countries which have UN headquarters, like in Geneva or in Vienna or in Bangkok or in Kenya or elsewhere. So, we are first planning to visit those places if possible.
Second, of course, there are great expectations from individual countries, because I think the UN flag is more important to some countries than some other countries. That’s what I learned from my discussions. Some countries said, “Perhaps you can live without the United Nations, but we can’t. We fully depend on what the UN is.” And even going there, visiting them, will increase the credibility of the United Nations and open the way to new possibilities for the UN.
And of course, we have something like 200,000 UN workers around the world. I have deep respect for them. They’re sacrificing their lives. They’re living in very difficult conditions. They are doing a great job, which shows the UN flag in difficult areas. It would be nice also to visit them and share with them what they need and what we can give, and also going there will increase their morale. So, this is where we are.
It depends on how the vaccine situation develops. It depends on, in the countries we travel, what will be the quarantine possibilities. Because as I mentioned, I have 52 weeks altogether, and I can’t lose 14 due to two weeks in quarantine. My weeks are precious. They must be used efficiently. So, I will also look into that. And I hope we will be able to make some visits when this COVID-19 pandemic permits and these difficulties I mentioned will allow.
Concerning the September high-level week, it’s very difficult to tell what will happen even next month. We’re facing a situation where things change even in one day. So, it will be too early to make any predictions for September. But as I mentioned, my personal feeling is that we will have to continue like what we have now in hand. Perhaps it might ameliorate a little bit. We might have, for some high-level meetings, some high-level persons attending our meetings. But I don’t think we can see a September week where ten thousand people are in the building, people are enjoying themselves, with civil society guests, Presidents, Prime Ministers wandering around with ten people surrounding them. I mean, I don’t think that we will be able to see that. But let’s cross our fingers. Let’s hope that it will come. But also, we must be realistic.
Question: Mr. President, actually you have already answered in greater detail my question about Secretary-General selection process. I just have a short follow-up. When is the last day when the General Assembly can approve a new candidacy for the next Secretary-General?
PGA: Well, the job starts in January next year. So, from January backwards, first, the Security Council has to make the selection and then the General Assembly makes the appointment. So, I can’t give dates, but any time before January. This process must come to an end.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for this press conference.
PGA: Objection! Objection!
Question: Sorry, Mr. President! I apologize.
PGA: The Secretary-General is listening, so…
Question: Sorry about that… Have you had any discussions with New York City officials about when the vaccine would be available for UN officials and diplomats, particularly for those working in the field? And we have seen some leaders taking that vaccine in public to show that it is safe and efficient. When the vaccine is available for you, would you take it in public?
PGA: Well, first of all, let me tell you what I have done for myself. I have an advantage of being older than 65 years old. So, once the announcement came out, I went to the system and applied for an appointment. And I have gladly gotten the appointment for the 2nd of February, and the 4th of February for my wife. This is not because I’m the PGA, but because I am more than 65 years old. And I’m happy that the system is working. And I know that the Secretary-General has done the same. He also applied to the system, and he got his appointment. I got it from New York State. He got it from the New York municipality. So, on different days, we are testing the system and how it works.
Having said this, I think the issue of the COVID-19 vaccine is very important, and it is indispensable to overcoming this virus. That’s the only thing we now depend on while facing a horrible situation everywhere in the world. And getting our communities and economies back on track mostly depends on the success of this vaccine and the success of these vaccination procedures. And, of course, from this perspective, getting the United Nations back on its feet to work and support the world recover is also important. So, I know that vaccine distribution is a mammoth task, and priority is being given to risk groups. But of course, there is also a word used, which is “essential workers.” UN personnel and the UN member delegations have been considered as essential workers from the beginning of this pandemic, and now what I think is that UN personnel should continue to be considered as essential workers.
Because first of all, the host country has a responsibility to the United Nations, to keep the United Nations working. It’s not the problem of another state. It is the problem of New York State. Only New York State has the United Nations. In Kentucky or in California, this is not the case. And it is not a big deal. We’re talking about a few thousand vaccines when there is a population of 330 million in the United States. So I’m kindly requesting the host country and the local authorities to think from this perspective and in order to keep this work that, in the United Nations, we are doing. And what we are doing is not easy. As I mentioned in my previous statement, we are taking risks. We are trying to show that the UN is alive. We’re trying to show that the United States is supporting the United Nations. And because of this, the UN could support the world’s difficult areas, can address the issues of vulnerable people and countries, et cetera, et cetera.
So that is why I hope that in the coming days or weeks, we will be considered – as the United Nations family in New York – as essential workers and could have – at least for those people who are coming to Headquarters and attending our meetings, for those people who are making this possible – to get special treatment by the host country and the local authorities.
Question: The General Assembly passed a resolution in 1949 to establish UNWRA. (inaudible) Why has the General Assembly not held a special meeting on UNWRA? (inaudible)
Spokesperson: It was difficult to hear you. The sound connection was not so good. We will come back to you.
Question: My question is on the nuclear ban treaty, the TPNW, that’s coming up, goes into legal force at the end of this month. You mentioned that the first resolution passed by the General Assembly pertained to disarmament. So, what are your views about that, about the legality of this treaty on January 22nd?
Spokesperson: We’ll take one more question, and then we’ll come back.
Question: Mr. President, you talked about the selection and appointment of the next Secretary-General. I would like to know. Are you going to ask Mr. Guterres to talk not only about what he expects his vision for the next five years, but what he did on his first term, whether it’s about failures or success?
PGA: So, concerning the question on UNWRA, as we continue to mark the 75 years of the United Nations during this session, we would be remiss in not acknowledging the work of UNRWA. I think it’s the longest-standing UN agency, which is tied to the longest-standing issue on the UN peace and security agenda. So, despite widespread political and financial pressures, UNWRA continues to be a critical humanitarian actor and stabilizing entity in the Middle East, serving more than five million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
In Gaza alone, it provides emergency food aid to nearly one million of the most impoverished people – and that’s half the population of Gaza. It has been instrumental in the COVID-19 response, given its expertise in providing mobile health and educational services in conflict-ridden areas. Its quality social services, including health and education, serve to promote the SDGs and ensure that Palestine refugees are not forgotten. UNWRA is a priority for donors and the multilateral system, as evidenced by the overwhelming support for its mandate renewal during the seventy-fourth session. So, it is in our collective interest and indeed our collective responsibility, pending a just and comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to ensure that UNWRA continues its operations uninterrupted. I encourage Member States in all my statements and in all the meetings we had in the General Assembly to support the Agency, including to sustain the reliable contributions.
Concerning the nuclear weapons issue and the NPT Review Conference you have mentioned, it is important to have an inclusive dialogue towards our seven-decade long journey to seek a nuclear weapon-free world. And the NPT remains the cornerstone of the overall nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime.
In October 2020, the UN Treaty on Prohibition of the Nuclear Weapons reached the required ratification by 50 States parties, and the Treaty will enter into force on the 22nd of January this month. And I hope that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons can serve as another instrument to safeguard and strengthen the international non-proliferation and disarmament architecture.
Meanwhile, the 2021 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is tentatively scheduled to meet from 2-27 August, in New York. Because of COVID-19, the Review Conference was postponed from its original date, last year in April. And as this is a Member States-driven process, my role is only to provide support to the Chair and the Secretariat.
And the third question. You’re asking the difficult questions! Look, first of all, there’s already a registered meeting of the Secretary-General with the General Assembly on the 28th of this month. He will make a statement there, explain what he has done, what he will do. And it is not because he’s a candidate, but this is for the Secretary-General to do in this part of the year. So, we will first hear in that meeting on part of the question you have asked.
The second part, which I have mentioned, is the first wave, with the candidates. Of course, this is a different one. It is as a candidate. So, it might be different than what he will present to us as the incumbent Secretary-General on the 28th of this month. I can’t tell the Secretary-General what his vision should be, what he has to say, is he happy or not. It’s his job to decide, and it’s our job to listen and ask questions.
Question: During the past four months of your presidency, negotiations to reform the Security Council were held a couple of times. Sir, do you see any hint of progress towards this important goal to reform the Security Council? Because I see the positions of the parties are frozen, as they were before, and do you need to give a push to these negotiations?
Spokesperson: We’ll take the other remaining questions first, and then the PGA will answer.
Question: Given that you’re a Gender Champion, Mr. President, do you think the UN should have a woman leader as soon as possible? If Guterres gets a second term, it’ll be more than 80 years without a woman leading the UN.
Spokesperson: And the final question.
Question: I know you said that whether or not we’re going to have candidates depends on the Member States, but are you proactively encouraging Member States to come forward with their own candidates and really expand on the transparency beginnings that we saw in 2016?
PGA: Concerning Security Council reform, of course it’s very important not only for Member States, but also to the United Nations as a whole. And of course it’s a very complex challenge that is closely linked to one of the main pillars of our Organization, which is peace and security. There’s no doubt that the membership of the Security Council, as well as its working methods, must reflect the realities of the 21st century. This process is an intergovernmental one, and thereby Member States-driven. It’s building on the meetings held during previous sessions. What I did in my four months was I had consultations with almost every group in the IGN process. I listened to their views. I exchanged views with them. And then I appointed two co-chairs for the IGN process – the Permanent Representative of Qatar and Permanent Representative of Poland. They’re going to start the intergovernmental negotiations for the seventy-fifth session on the 25th and 26th of January. Then, the first meeting will take place.
And of course, I believe that dialogue among Member States is the most effective way to bring the reform process forward. But I’m also looking forward to the first IGN meeting on the 25th and 26th of January – that it will also give some lights on what we will be able to do in the following months. We’re planning to have more meetings of the IGN. We have reserved spaces in the General Assembly Hall for those. But first I wanted to see what’s happening on the 25th and 26th of January so that we can decide on further steps.
Concerning the woman Secretary-General, of course, this is not in the hands of the President of the General Assembly or the Security Council. It’s a Member States-driven process, and it will be realized only if there are women candidates. If there are women candidates, then they will be eligible in the process. Last time, when this process started, there were 11 candidates, as I mentioned. Almost half of them were women.
Correspondent: There were 13 candidates. Seven were women.
PGA: Okay… It’s not in my hands to force any country to come out with candidates or a woman candidate or a man candidate. But I think as soon as we start the process, then we will wait for the decisions of the countries, whether they will propose somebody, whether they will propose a woman, and then we can be able to understand where we are.
Spokesperson: And for the final question, can you repeat your question please?
Question: Are you going to be proactive in encouraging Member States to come forward with candidates?
PGA: When this process starts, then I will also write a letter to member countries, where I will say that I’m expecting the views and the decisions of the countries to come out with candidates or not. The different situation here is that last time we didn’t have an incumbent Secretary-General. So, when the process started, the letter went out saying, “Please come out with candidates”. And also, there was a sentence saying to preferably also include women candidates. But this time it’s a slightly different situation, where we have an incumbent Secretary-General who is a candidate. So, that might make the picture look different. I don’t know.
Question: Does having an incumbent Secretary-General affect the process?
PGA: From my perspective it doesn’t affect anything. But I mean last time when we started the process, we didn’t mention that the incumbent Secretary-General was also a candidate. This time, we have already announced that the incumbent Secretary-General is a candidate. Other than that, the rest is the same with the process we had last time. It doesn’t make any difference. I will make sure that this is a fair, inclusive process, very open. You know that I’m a very open person. I share everything either on Twitter or on the website. I don’t like hiding anything – even when [my spokesperson] Brenden is opposing me being so frank and open.
Spokesperson: That’s not true!
PGA: So, we’ll follow up, and I’m sure in February the process will start, and then we will see what’s going on.
Spokesperson: Thank you everyone. We’ve been here for one hour, and the President was happy to take all your questions. And we will see you next time. Thank you.
Question: When’s the next time?
PGA: In politics, even one week is very long. So, let us see how things develop, and I’ll be more than happy to see you any time.