11 April 2008


11 April 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY General Assembly president


United Nations General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim said this morning that he would initiate consultations between Member States and his Task Force aimed at setting the groundwork for intergovernmental negotiations to reform the Security Council.

Speaking during a Headquarters press briefing on the outcomes of the General Assembly’s most recent debates on Security Council reform, management reform and the Millennium Development Goals, Mr. Kerim said the Task Force -- chaired by him and vice-chaired by the Permanent Representatives of Bangladesh, Chile, Djibouti and Portugal -- would consider and try to converge the separate proposals of various groups of countries on enlarging the Council and making it more transparent and accountable.  He said Member States had already adopted his proposed “seven principles” as the framework for that overall reform process.

“The reform of the Security Council has a more profound meaning than just enlargement.  It has to mean adaptation of the institutions, of the United Nations above all, and that goes for the General Assembly and the Secretariat as well.  It all has to adapt to a new, very different world,” Mr. Kerim said.  He stressed the importance of taking into account global changes in the past 40 years and accommodating the interests and concerns of all persons, especially who had suffered human rights abuses and whose human security and development needs had not been met.

Earlier this week, the Assembly held its first thematic debate ever on management reform to take stock of overall organizational changes, particularly in light of proposals set forth in the 2005 World Summit Outcome document and to forge a common approach to management reform.  The debate focused on the way mandates were formulated, implemented and evaluated, the Organization’s planning and budgetary process and human resources management, he said.

The session gave representatives of the more than 120 participating Member States, as well as the Secretariat, a chance to exchange experiences and chart a future course of action, while calming fears that such a gathering and similar debates in the future would jeopardize the work and authority of the Assembly’s Fifth Committee.  The fact that important actors in the reform process -- among them, the Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, two Under-Secretaries-General and other leading Secretariat staff -- had taken part in the debate was also encouraging.

“I think that we’ve agreed that there is space for everyone and it will not be a process of interference, but rather of complementary work in order to make sure that we will really accomplish the goals set up in terms of management reform,” Mr. Kerim said.

The Assembly President also informed the press about next week’s visit to United Nations Headquarters of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the fourth address at the United Nations by a Pope.  The Catholic leader’s address, Mr. Kerim said, was particularly important, as he represented more than 1 billion people and had strong influence over many issues of great concern to the United Nations, such as global development, human rights, humanitarian activities and health.

“More than ever we need today an articulated, clear and profound dialogue among cultures and religions, particularly between Christianity and Islam,” Mr. Kerim said, noting that such a dialogue would play a major role in the future in promoting world peace and stability.

A correspondent asked if the Assembly President and the Pope had discussed major conflicts on the United Nations agenda.  Mr. Kerim said they had talked about the need to make people believe in institutions, which was essential for effective multilateralism and which would require reform of those institutions.  The fact that the Pope accepted the invitation to speak at the United Nations was a clear indication that he wants to express his views on peace, security and other themes.

As to whether the Task Force (on Security Council reform) would have to begin anew because a proposal by Cyprus and Germany for certain reforms had not received the necessary support, Mr. Kerim said:  “There is no need to start from scratch again.”  The annexes of document A/61/47 -- the report of the Open-ended Working Group on Security Council reform – provided a clear concept for the way forward, including an intermediate solution, and that the Task Force would build on that concept.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.