General Assembly Faces ‘Pivotal’ Year as It Seeks to Define Development Agenda for Post-2015 Era, New President Says at Opening of Sixty-eighth Session

17 September 2013

General Assembly Faces ‘Pivotal’ Year as It Seeks to Define Development Agenda for Post-2015 Era, New President Says at Opening of Sixty-eighth Session

17 September 2013
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly


1st Meeting (PM)

General Assembly Faces ‘Pivotal’ Year as It Seeks to Define Development Agenda


for Post-2015 Era, New President Says at Opening of Sixty-eighth Session


Calling for increased cooperation among Member States, the incoming President of the General Assembly said today that the upcoming year would be pivotal for the 193-nation organ as it sought to identify the parameters of the post-2015 development agenda.

“The magnitude of the task before us will require decisive action and the highest levels of collaboration, and we must prove ourselves and our efforts to be equal to the enormity of the task,” said John Ashe ( Antigua and Barbuda) during the opening of the Assembly’s sixty-eighth session.

He said he looked forward to the Assembly completing its ambitious agenda in a timely and effective manner, adding that he was encouraged by the “almost universal pledges of cooperation” he had received during meetings preceding the session’s opening.  Hopefully, those pledges would make the collective task of tackling the bolder aspects of the General Assembly’s work more feasible, while also instilling a greater sense of urgency into the body and ending procrastination and delay.

The President said he would hold three high-level events and three thematic debates under the theme he had chosen for the session — “The Post-2015 Development Agenda:  Setting the Stage” — each of which would be focused on assisting Member States in setting that stage.  One high-level event would address the needs of women, youth and civil society, and look at how best to make use of their contributions to development goals.  Another would look at the contribution of human rights and the rule of law to the post-2015 framework, particularly the establishment of an appropriate framework to ensure that human rights, rule-of-law and good governance practices anchored evolving policy platforms.  The third would tackle South-South and triangular cooperation and examine how information and communications technology could maximize its contribution to the fulfilment of development targets.

Noting that partnerships were becoming increasingly important, he said one of the three thematic debates would address that issue.  Another would deal with the establishment of stable and peaceful societies and the third would focus on the roles of water, sanitation and sustainable energy.  With 1.4 billion people deprived of reliable electricity, 900 million lacking access to clean water and 2.6 billion without adequate sanitation, urgent action was needed to address those challenges.  The Assembly would tackle many other critical issues, including migration, nuclear disarmament, the Millennium Development Goals, disabilities and the role of investment in helping Africa achieve its development objectives.

Of particular importance, however, would be efforts to reform and revitalize the General Assembly and the Security Council, he said, adding that he would dedicate significant time and resources to that issue.  Everyone agreed that it was “simply unacceptable to do nothing”, given the hindrance posed by the lack of reform.  Failure to act was “an immense disservice to the peoples of the world who rely on us”, he said, adding that he would reconvene the Working Group on Security Council Reform in mid-October.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the Assembly would focus on accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals ahead of the 2015 deadline, with business, civil society and the philanthropic community coming together to showcase successes.  “The sense of expectation is clear,” he declared.  “We are on the eve of very important work.”  Indeed, the Assembly would also intensify efforts to define a post-2015 development agenda, including through a single set of sustainable development goals to address the complex challenges of the new era and capture the imagination of the world’s peoples.

Also during the session, the Assembly would advance preparations for the 2014 Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States and carry out a range of efforts aimed at meeting the expectations of a global public looking to it for decisions and investments to build a future of prosperity and opportunity.  In that context, the Secretary-General also highlighted the upcoming high-level meetings on persons with disabilities, and on migration and development, as well as a number of urgent peace and security challenges.  In Syria — without a doubt the biggest crisis facing the international community — the Assembly had a role in both resolving the conflict and responding to the suffering, he stressed.

In other work, he continued, the Assembly would hold a meeting of the oversight mechanism for the peace agreement that the United Nations had brokered earlier this year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region.  The Middle East Quartet would also meet for the first time in more than a year to support the recently resumed direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  Finally, the Assembly would discuss how to support transitions in Yemen and Myanmar, consolidate stability in Mali following recent elections, and mark the twentieth anniversary of the landmark Vienna Conference on Human Rights, which had led to the establishment of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“What matters most is what we do here — the hard work we carry out that will translate what we say on this rostrum into tangible progress for the world’s people,” he declared.  Looking forward to the “dogged determination” that the Assembly President had pledged, he concluded:  “That is precisely what we need at this crucial time.”

In other business today, the Assembly took note of a letter from the Secretary-General (document A/68/374) informing the Assembly President that five Member States were in arrears in respect of their financial contributions to the Organization under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.  [Article 19 states that a Member State in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions will have no vote in the Assembly if the amount of those arrears exceeds the amount of the contributions due from the preceding two years.]

The Assembly also decided that its Credentials Committee for its sixty-eighth session would comprise Belgium, China, Colombia, Gabon, Guyana, Russian Federation, Singapore, United Republic of Tanzania and the United States.

Assembly members then authorized the following subsidiary organs of the General Assembly to meet at United Nations Headquarters during the sixty-eighth session:  the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals; Committee on Relations with the Host Country; Disarmament Commission; Independent Audit Advisory Committee; Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination; UN-Women; Working Group on the Financing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East; Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing; and the Commission on Sustainable Development (document A/68/367).

Concluding the meeting, the President reminded delegates that the Secretary-General would deliver a briefing on the report of the United Nations Mission on the Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta Area of Damascus on 21 August, immediately following today’s Assembly meeting.

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