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‘We Have No Right to Remain Indifferent’ in Face of Precarious Situations, General Assembly President Says upon Conclusion of Sixty-fifth Session

Sixty-fifth General Assembly


118th Meeting (AM)

 ‘We Have No Right to Remain Indifferent’ in Face of Precarious Situations,

General Assembly President Says upon Conclusion of Sixty-fifth Session


Secretary-General Commends President’s ‘Superb Stewardship’ of World Body,

As It Takes Action on Several Outstanding Matters Ahead of Sixty-sixth Session

While commending Member States for making headway on the major themes on the agenda of the General Assembly’s sixty-fifth session dealing with poverty reduction, global governance, a green economy and sustainable development, Joseph Deiss, the world body’s outgoing President today warned “our commitment in the name of the values of the United Nations has sometimes been too weak or too late”.

“At times during the sixty-fifth session, I have asked myself:  at what point does outrage to human dignity and the suffering of peoples finally become so great that we are forced to condemn it — to act,” said Mr. Deiss, painting a picture of an Organization excelling at some facets of its mission, but which could do much more if unconstrained by slow reflexes, obtuse language or the pursuit of national interests.

For the United Nations to continue its vital work for humankind, remain strong and capable of making a difference, the General Assembly, he declared, must determine the common interest, defend basic values and respond to the real concerns of people.  Making a strong plea for common interests to prevail over national priorities, he said that too often Member States seemed reluctant to abandon set-in-stone positions.  And worse, crucial debates that were fundamental for the poorest and most vulnerable often were held hostage to electoral positions and hidden agendas, a tendency that bred double standards.

The Assembly’s deliberations, he said, highlighting another area of underperformance, were often detached from the concerns of the public.  To outsiders, those discussions were abstract, even incomprehensible.  “Some of our battles may seem futile to those who live under oppression, or insecurity, extreme poverty and conditions devoid of human dignity,” he said, stressing his conviction that for all peoples whose integrity was threatened – “whether in Syria or elsewhere” – the Assembly must at least be a moral refuge, reassuring them that their cause was not forgotten, “that we uphold their aspirations and that they had the right to hope”.

As the current session drew to a close, he said that, while the Assembly had accomplished much — including sending a strong message of determination during its High-Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals to keep the promise to halve poverty and effectively address other global ills by 2015 — undoubtedly, more could have been done.  The situation in the Middle East remained unstable; in many parts of the world, conflicts were ongoing; and far too many human beings were living in precarious conditions.  “In all these situations, we do not have the right to remain indifferent,” he said, expressing the confidence — and the hope — that the Member States of the United Nations could continue to work together for humankind.

Finally, he reminded Member States that at this time last year, he had been handed the traditional gavel “by the representative of a now deposed regime”.  He asked “how, several months earlier, could we have tolerated witnessing the tyrant who ruled that country scorn the values of the United Nations in this very Hall, by throwing the Charter to the ground?”.  In what moment of distraction could Member States have elected that regime to the Human Rights Council?  Yet, the world body had responded, when on 1 March, it had suspended Libya from that body, imposing the moral force of the United Nations before the eyes of the world.  “On that day, I said to you:  I am proud to be your President,” he recalled, thanking all delegations today for that and other achievements during his tenure.

In his remarks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Mr. Deiss for his superb stewardship of the Assembly during an especially difficult year and for helping to show the role the Assembly could play in meeting the major challenges of our time.  The Secretary-General said Mr. Deiss’ choice of global governance as the theme of the successful summit on the Millennium Development Goals was especially timely.  He had steered the Assembly through three delicate, important processes — the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, the review of the Human Rights Council and efforts to reform the Economic and Social Council.

Moreover, Mr. Deiss had convened many thematic debates and other meetings of consequence, focused on issues that really mattered to the world’s people, such as the rule of law, the green economy and the responsibility to protect, the Secretary-General said.  He had rallied Member States, not just to defend particular national interests, but also to work together as friends to find constructive solutions.

Turning to the issue of climate change, the Secretary-General said he had just returned from a visit to Australia, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, where he had seen first-hand some of the most important challenges facing human beings, notably the rising seas in Kiribati and the need for disaster risk reduction in the face of mega-disasters.  He stressed the need to achieve truly sustainable development and empower women worldwide.  “Let us keep these high on our agenda as we begin a new Assembly session tomorrow,” he said.

He noted the Assembly would have a full slate of summits, mini-summits and other meetings in the coming days and weeks, and this year, it would face an increasingly complex set of realities, including economic turmoil, social unrest and tectonic shifts in global power.  While such periods of flux created great anxiety, they also created opportunities for change.  “Let that awareness — that potential — run through the problem-solving work that begins anew tomorrow,” he said, adding that “I look forward to working with you to make the most of this moment.”

Lastly, the Secretary-General lamented that he had missed the Assembly’s commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States.  He said his thoughts were with the families of the victims and to all those who had suffered or lost friends and loved ones on that terrible day.  No cause or grievance could ever justify such wanton killing and destruction, and the United Nations would continue its fight against that global menace, he said.

The Assembly opened its meeting on a sombre note, holding a moment of silence to mark the death, on 6 August, of Harry Holkeri of Finland, who had presided over the historic fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly.  Delegations paid tribute to Mr. Holkeri and hailed his leadership of the 193-member body, saying the pragmatic statesman and former Finnish Premier would always be known as the man who had led the 2000 Assembly, which had given birth to the landmark Millennium Declaration.

Both Secretary-General Ban and current Assembly President Deiss recalled Mr. Holkeri’s contribution.  The representative of Finland thanked the Assembly, on behalf of his Government, for holding a memorial session on Mr. Holkeri’s behalf.  Along with spotlighting the adoption of the Millennium Declaration, he said that Mr. Holkeri would also be remembered as head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) from 2003-2004.  At home, Mr. Holkeri’s pragmatism, dedication and level-headedness would forever mark him as a fence-mender and consensus-builder.

Paying tribute to the memory of Mr. Holkeri were the representatives of Sudan (on behalf of the African States), Indonesia (on behalf of the Asia Pacific States), Romania (on behalf of the Eastern European States), Colombia (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States), Monaco (on behalf of the Western European and Other States), and the United States (on behalf of the host country).

Following another moment of silence at the end of the meeting, Mr. Deiss invited to the podium the President of the sixty-sixth session, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, of Qatar, and passed him the traditional gavel.

Assembly Action

The Assembly took action on a host of outstanding matters ahead of the opening of its sixty-sixth session tomorrow, including setting the arrangements for the fifth High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development.  Adopting resolution A/65/L.91, the Assembly decided that the dialogue would be held on 7 and 8 December, and focus on the overall theme “The Monterrey Consensus and Doha Declaration on financial for development; status of implementation and the tasks ahead”.

That meeting would also consist of a series of plenary and informal meetings, three interactive multi-stakeholder round tables and an informal interactive dialogue.  The round tables would focus on, respectively, reform of the international monetary and financial system and its implications for development; the impact of the world financial and economic crisis on foreign direct investment and other private flows, external debt and international trade; and the role of financial and technical development cooperation.  The informal dialogue would examine the link between financing for development and achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

In a separate decision, the Assembly adopted a resolution on follow-up to the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development (document A/65/L.42.Rev.1), by which it expressed the world body’s “deep concern” about the ongoing adverse impact of the crisis, and stressed the need to continue to address systematic fragilities and imbalances.  As such, the Assembly would decide, during its upcoming sixty-sixth session, the most efficient modalities by with the intergovernmental follow-up process on the Conference and the crisis itself would proceed.

The Assembly, in an oral decision adopted by consensus, decided to immediately continue intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform in informal plenary at its sixty-sixth session, as mandated by decisions 62/557 (2008), 63/565 (2009) and 64/568 (2010).  By other terms, the Assembly decided to convene the Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council during the sixty-sixth session, if Member States so decided, and to include an item on that issue in that session.

Among its other actions, the Assembly elected France as a member to the Committee for Programme and Coordination for a term of office beginning 12 September 2011 and expiring on 31 December 2012; it made technical amendments to the general regulations of the World Food Programme (WFP), ensuring that its budgets and financial statements would be submitted to the respective bodies “annually” rather than “biennially”; and it added to the agenda of its sixty-sixth session an item on “implementation of the Declaration on Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS”.

Adopting a wide-ranging text on the revitalization of its work, included in the report of the Ad Hoc Working Group dealing with that subject (document A/65/909), the Assembly, among other things reiterated that such revitalization was a critical component of the overall reform of the United Nations.  The text also reaffirmed the Assembly’s role and authority, including on matters relating to international peace and security, and stressed the need for the Assembly to actively undertake its role and effectively respond, in a timely manner, to emerging challenges and current events of common concern to the international community.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum (document A/65/L.90), introduced by Jarmo Viinanen (New Zealand), who said the past year had been significant for regional cooperation, with the Forum commemorating its fortieth anniversary.  While proud of its role in confronting and overcoming its own problems, the region still needed helped, he said, calling on the United Nations system to do more.

He also praised the Secretary-General for attending last week’s fortieth Pacific Islands Forum, held in Auckland, the first Secretary-General to do so, and for taking the time to visit four Pacific islands.  Those visits had given the Secretary-General a keener understanding of the grave and immediate danger of climate change, he said, calling the Secretary-General a “staunch and reliable partner” in the fight against climate change.

In other business, the Assembly decided to defer consideration of various items to its sixty-sixth session and placed them on the draft agenda for that session.  They included: “the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan”, “follow-up to the recommendations on administrative and internal oversight of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations ‘oil-for-food’ programme”; and “financing of the United Nations Mission in East Timor”.

Among other items to remain on the agenda of the sixty-sixth session, for consideration upon notification by a Member State, were:  “the question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte”; “the question of Cyprus”; “question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas); “the situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti”; “armed Israeli aggression against the Iraqi nuclear installations and its grave consequences for the established international system concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and international peace and security”; and “consequences of the Iraqi occupation of and aggression against Kuwait”.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 13 September, to open its sixty-sixth session.

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For information media. Not an official record.