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19 Sep, 2012

“Peaceful Settlement of Conflict” To Be Overarching Theme of 2012 U.N. General Assembly


United Nations, 18 Sept 2012 (UN News) – Faced with extraordinary challenges including terrorism, widespread geopolitical instability and the urgent need for sustainable development, the General Assembly — through a host of new initiatives and an unflagging commitment to the United Nations founding principles — must contribute more to the destiny of the planet, said that body’s new President, Vuk Jeremić, as he opened its 67th annual session this afternoon.

“We meet here amidst upheavals of unprecedented scope,” Mr. Jeremić, of Serbia, told gathered delegates, quoting longtime statesman Henry Kissinger. The resulting high level of geopolitical volatility would likely remain a challenge “for quite some time”, making it more complicated for the United Nations to carry out its duties. However, the Organization — and the General Assembly, as its chief deliberative organ — remained critical to addressing the growing needs of mankind.

“One simply cannot imagine a world in which peace and the dignity of all could flourish without the United Nations,” he said, and, “standing before this greatest of parliaments”, he emphasized that the 193-member Assembly lay at the heart of the Organization. It was the only forum where all Member States could come together as sovereign equals, he said, as he enumerated some of the essential areas where it had a leading role to play.

Key among those, he continued, was the overarching theme he had chosen for the sixty-seventh session — “bringing about adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means” — which built on the work of previous sessions, as well as the priorities of the Secretary-General.

Indeed, peace and security was an underlying prerequisite for the stability needed for global growth, sustainable development and social progress, he said, emphasizing that he also intended to bring the world closer to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, as the 2015 deadline for achieving those agreed targets was rapidly approaching.

Yet another core focus would be on the post-2015 agenda, he said, stressing that the Assembly’s objective in that respect should be the full implementation of the mandate it had received at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — “Rio+20” — held recently in Brazil. That would include the identification and ultimately the implementation of a series of Sustainable Development Goals, which, among other things, would put the evolving sustainable development framework in the service of conflict prevention.

In the economic realm, he said that various international groupings — including the Group of 8 (G8) and the Group of 20 (G20) — and international finance and trade institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, now played critical roles in global economic governance, another area where the Assembly could contribute more to the world’s material destiny. To that end, he intended to convene an informal, high-level meeting on global economic governance, with the aim to establish, in the next few years, an effective consultation framework between the Assembly and those various mechanisms.

The Assembly must also endeavor to make progress in other key areas, including arms control and disarmament, said Mr. Jeremić, stressing that he would support efforts towards the achievement of a successful outcome to the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. He would also urge the Assembly to strengthen the role of United Nations peacekeeping, as the presence of the Organization on the ground was an “indispensible instrument of peace”. Contemporary United Nations peacekeeping was both complex and continually evolving, he said in that respect, noting the growing role of the African Union and the European Union in joint missions with the United Nations.

The fight against terrorism must also remain high on the Assembly’s agenda, he continued, and efforts should be increased to finalize a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, in accordance with Assembly resolution 66/105. The Organization must also continue to play a leading role in the protection and promotion of human rights, and both the Assembly and the Human Rights Council should devote greater attention to realizing what the Universal Declaration called a “common standard of achievement” in that respect.

Emphasizing his steadfast commitment to ensuring the equal rights and opportunities of women, he said that two issues that remained of great concern were combating violence against women and ending the trafficking of women and girls. During the present session, therefore, the Assembly would be presented with an important appraisal of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, adopted in 2010.

Turning to the revitalization of the General Assembly itself, he said that he would continue to work to indentify ways to enhance the role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency of the body, with a particular focus on implementing what had already been agreed. “To revitalize this most universal of multilateral institutions is to renew our faith not only in the United Nations programmes and purposes, but also in each other,” he said in that regard. In addition, the rule of law — the focus of a high-level Assembly meeting slated for Monday, 23 September — should also remain high on the agenda of the sixty-seventh session. He urged the Member States to agree on a consensus outcome document ahead of that meeting.

“The challenges we face over the next year will likely be great in number,” he said. “As we begin the sixty-seventh session, let us never lose sight of our shared obligation to participate in the responsible stewardship of the purposes and principles of this Organization,” and remain dedicated to resolving differences harmoniously through dialogue, he stressed. In that regard, he said that the “tempered conduct of the best of those who came before” must serve as a “worthy signpost” as the Assembly pursued its work over the coming session.

In that regard, he cited, in particular, former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, who had perished in an airplane crash exactly fifty-one years ago today. The Assembly should draw inspiration from the words that Mr. Hammarskjöld had written not long before his death: “Only he who keeps his eye fixed on the horizon will find the right road.”

Also taking the podium today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his expectation for “new people on the scene, new issues to be addressed and new ways of conducting business”. However, he said, “our challenge is to make that initial sense of hope more than a fleeting moment,” and “to turn today’s good will into a lasting record of progress for the world’s people.”

Stressing that there had been good coordination between the new President’s office and his own, he said that concurrently with the annual general debate many important high-level meetings and initiatives on energy, women’s health, nutrition and education would be featured. Also prevalent would be complex issues of peace and security, including the urgent situation in the Sahel region and the “deteriorating” situation in Syria. Referring to the new President’s proposal that the general debate of the sixty-seventh session focus on the peaceful settlement of international disputes, he added that one of his own priorities had been to promote prevention and peaceful means of resolving differences.

The world was seeing incidents of intolerance and hatred that were then exploited by others, he continued, calling for the need for voices of moderation and calm to make themselves heard at this time, as well as the need for all to speak up in favour of mutual respect and understanding the values and beliefs of others. “The United Nations itself must rise to the moment,” he declared, adding that “people want results in real time, not years.” In that regard, Mr. Ban offered to join in efforts to actualize the new President’s hope that the session ahead would help reach the day when humankind will have “abolished its fear”.

In other business today, delegations took note of a letter from the Secretary-General to the Assembly President, informing the Assembly that five Member States were in arrears in payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations, under Article 19 of the Charter (document A/67/371).

[According to Article 19, a Member State in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization 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 the Credentials Committee of its sixty-seventh session would comprise nine Member States: Angola, China, Peru, Russian Federation, Seychelles, Sweden, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.

Turning to a letter from the Chair of the Committee on Conferences (document A/67/352) regarding meetings of the Assembly’s subsidiary organs, the Assembly authorized the following entities to meet during the main part of the sixty-seventh session on the strict understanding that those meetings be accommodated within available facilities and services: the Board of Auditors; the Committee on Relations with the Host Country; the Independent Audit Advisory Committee; the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; and the Disarmament Commission.

Also on that list were the Executive Board of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women; the Working Group on the Financing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East; the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination; and the meeting of States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Prior to the start of the meeting, the Assembly observed a moment of silent prayer or meditation.