|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by President of General Assembly on Priorities for 2011
General Assembly President Joseph Deiss (Switzerland) expressed worries today over the escalation of violence and mayhem in Côte d’Ivoire resulting from Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down after losing that West African nation’s November presidential election to Alassane Ouattara.
“I express my deep concern in relation to the situation in Côte d’Ivoire about the deteriorating situation on the ground,” Mr. Deiss said at a Headquarters news conference called to outline the Assembly’s priorities for the coming period. “I deplore and strongly condemn human rights abuses and attacks against civilians, and also especially against United Nations personnel as well as peacekeepers and their equipment, by forces and supporters loyal to Mr. Laurent Gbagbo.”
Mr. Deiss commended Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s leadership as well as the determination of Member States and the international community to support legitimacy and democracy in Côte d’Ivoire, recalling that on 23 December the Assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution recommending that it approve Mr. Ouattara’s appointment of Youssoufou Bamba as the country’s new Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Mr. Bamba had subsequently presented his credentials to the Secretary-General on 29 December and met with Mr. Deiss on 14 January.
Highlighting the Assembly’s priorities in the coming months, the President said it would need to move forward “decisively” on Security Council reform, revitalization of the General Assembly, review of the Human Rights Council, and review of the implementation of resolution 61/16 on strengthening the Economic and Social Council. In addition, the Assembly would hold a high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS in June, as well as high-level meetings in September, during its sixty-sixth session, on non-communicable diseases, desertification and the upcoming 10‑year review conference on the 2001 World Conference against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa.
Also this year, Mr. Deiss said, the Assembly would hold informal thematic debates on disaster risk reduction; preparations for the United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to be held from 30 May to 3 June in Istanbul, Turkey; international migration and development; the “green economy”; and the broader aspects of global governance. It would also hold interactive dialogues on global sustainability and interaction with the Group of Twenty (G-20). Mr. Deiss said he would visit Cameroon from 27 to 29 January, before travelling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government, scheduled for 30 and 31 January.
Recounting his recent activities, the Assembly President said he had visited China last week, holding “substantive and constructive” discussions with Vice-President Xi Jinping and Foreign Affairs Minister Yang Jiechi on a wide range of Assembly-related issues. They included the Millennium Development Goals, the upcoming Istanbul Conference, sustainable development, global governance, reform of the Security Council and the wider United Nations, review of the Human Rights Council and human rights in general, as well as the situations in Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire and on the Korean peninsula. “With Chinese leaders, I underlined the need to strengthen multilateralism, with the United Nations at its core, in order to address effectively the global challenges confronting the international community,” he said.
Recapping the Assembly’s activities since the start of its current session, the President said it had adopted 263 resolutions in 74 plenary meetings conducted in a “constructive and cooperative spirit”, adding that he had been encouraged by Member States’ attention to global governance and their commitment during the September High-level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals Summit. In October, the Assembly had adopted a resolution on the review of the Peacebuilding Commission, successfully concluding the review process begun during the previous session.
Responding to a question about his discussions with Chinese leaders on the Korean peninsula, Mr. Deiss said he had expressed the Assembly’s concern over tensions between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in addition to issuing a personal call for restraint and emphasizing the need for both countries to resolve their disputes peacefully.
Asked whether former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and his wife should be indicted for financial self-enrichment and human rights abuses, Mr. Deiss said he could not comment on the matter because the Assembly was not yet seized of it. However, he did support appeals by the Secretary-General and others for non-violent democratic solutions to that would enable Tunisian institutions to function properly.
Questioned about the procedure of the Assembly’s Credentials Committee in considering the validity of a Member State’s representatives when there was a change of Government, he said that in the case of Côte d’Ivoire, the new President had called on the Committee to approve his appointee. In such a situation, whereby two individuals were in competition for the post, the Committee met to decide which one to approve. Tunisia’s current Permanent Representative would remain in his post until that country’s new Government either recognized him or asked the Committee to approve a replacement, he added.
Asked whether Member States were any closer to agreeing on how to expand the Security Council membership, Mr. Deiss said that Zahir Tanin ( Afghanistan), who was facilitating discussions in that regard, would present a paper in February or March on the views presented by Member States during a 14 December meeting on that subject. The President added that he did not plan to make proposals on Security Council reform, but expressed hope that negotiations on the matter would progress in the coming year.
In response to a question about prospective discussions on the deadly mudslides in Brazil and ways to prevent such disasters in the future, Mr. Deiss said it would hold informal debates on the matter, addressing in particular disaster risk in large urban areas in order to try and provide comprehensive guidance on disaster prevention and management.
Asked about his successor, Mr. Deiss said the next Assembly President would be from the Asian Group, but there were no official proposals on the specific country as yet.
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