22 December 2011

Press Conference by General Assembly President

22 December 2011
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by General Assembly President


From being increasingly vocal on human rights to taking decisions on tackling non-communicable diseases, the General Assembly had taken great strides in its current session during an “eventful and demanding” year for the United Nations, the Assembly President told journalists today at Headquarters.

Speaking at a year-end press conference, Nasser Abdulaziz al-Nasser outlined some of the achievements made over the first three months of his tenure, saying the Assembly had been active in galvanizing the necessary global partnership to assist the Governments and people in the Arab world during the “Arab Spring” — or what he termed the “Arab Awakening”.

“The General Assembly is increasingly getting vocal on human rights issues,” he said.  Indeed, as those protests and calls for freedom had generated much concern for the needs and demands of the people in affected countries, Mr. Al‑Nasser had undertaken a joint trip to Libya with the Secretary-General. The issues surrounding the popular movements had also been the source of much discussion in the Assembly itself.

On Libya, the Assembly had taken action to restore the legitimate representation of the Libyan people at the United Nations through its adoption, prior to the start of the general debate, of a resolution allowing the National Transitional Council to speak and vote for Libya.  Additionally, the Assembly had witnessed another “historic development” as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had outlined an application for Palestine’s full membership to the United Nations.  Many Member States continued to uphold their recognition and support for a Palestinian statehood, he added.

Another highlight had been the Assembly’s adoption of a political declaration on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, which — while preventable — were now the largest cause of death worldwide.  The declaration was intended to help Member States deal with that issue fully and quickly, he said.  Additionally, the Assembly, through the September adoption of a political declaration entitled “United against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance”, had “spoken with one voice” against the global scourges of racism, hatred and intolerance.

Looking ahead after a demanding three months, he said that when the Assembly resumed its sixty-sixth session in January 2012 it would focus on issues ranging from mediation to sustainable development to Security Council reform.  In particular, the question of reforming the Security Council — which had been on the agenda of the General Assembly for some two decades — still loomed large on the world stage, with a wide array of countries favouring some level of reform on that 15-member body.

While that complicated issue was one for the Member States to decide, he said, he would take steps during the resumed session to help them address it, including by holding a retreat early in 2012.  He would not spare any effort in offering his support, stressing that “if there is serious political will to move forward, we will do so”.

Other items on the 2012 agenda included a thematic debate on disaster prevention and response, an address by the President to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in January and several high-level events on mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

With regards to sustainable development and global prosperity, he said that States and other stakeholders were deep in preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”), slated to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012.  In that vein, a retreat had been convened on 17 and 18 December under the theme “Paving the way for a successful Rio+20”, and consideration of the issue would continue into the new year.

Many of the questions posed by correspondents following the President’s remarks focused on the United Nations strategy with regards to Syria, where Government forces were perpetrating ongoing violence against civilian protesters.  Responding to one correspondent, who wondered whether he would visit Syria — and what the role of the General Assembly would be in that situation — the President said that he would be happy to visit, but he encouraged the Government to cease the violence first and foremost.  A team from the League of Arab States planned to go to that country to gauge how serious the Government was about its commitment to its obligations, he said, stressing that the Arab League initiative was a “great achievement” and should be given a chance to succeed.

Observing that the Palestinian people would not receive full membership in the United Nations, as they lacked the necessary support in the Security Council, another correspondent asked whether the President would encourage them to reverse course and bring their case to the General Assembly.  He responded that, if they did come to the Assembly, their chances of being recognized as an “observer State” were very good.  He hoped that they would do so, but, indeed, that was a “Palestinian decision” to make.

“We have about nine more months to go”, he said in closing, “and we will continue to tackle all the topical important issues on the international agenda.”

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