Press Briefing on "Reforming the United Nations" with H.E. Mr. Jean Ping, President of the fifty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly
The President of the fifty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Jean Ping, is on a three-day visit to Austria, at the invitation of the Government of Austria. During his visit to the Vienna International Centre, a press briefing was organized by UNIS Vienna on 8 June 2005, on the topic of "Reforming the United Nations". The briefing was moderated by Ms. Nasra Hassan, Director, UNIS Vienna. Representatives of media, permanent missions and NGOs attended the press briefing.
In his statement, Mr. Ping underlined that the United Nations reform process had become a vital need for the international community, and that there was more general agreement on this than ever before. The world had changed drastically since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, with new and changing challenges and threats facing the organization and its Member States, such as HIV/AIDS, terrorism and intra-state war. Mr. Ping stated that the United Nations remained a unique framework for multilateralism, and that Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report In Larger Freedom served as a basis for the Member States in their quest for an answer to the question as to what kind of United Nations was needed now.
The draft outcome document that Mr. Ping had recently presented to Member States contained the set of decisions, recommendations and proposals that Member States had made on the basis of the Secretary-General's report. The world leaders would consider these proposals in New York in September, to discuss four interrelated clusters of issues, namely development, peace and security, human rights and the rule of law, and institutional reform to strengthen the United Nations, said Mr. Ping.
The briefing was followed by a question-and-answer session.
In response to a question regarding Security Council reform, and whether he preferred Plan A or Plan B, as proposed in the Secretary-General's report, Mr. Ping answered that he, as President of the General Assembly, could not have preferences, and that, as President, he was trying to find solutions according to the preferences of Member States. Mr. Ping underlined that Security Council reform was only a small, though important part, of one of the clusters being discussed by Member States.
In response to a question on the issue of collective security, and disarmament in particular, Mr. Ping emphasized that the topic of security was strongly linked with the other clusters, underlining that these issues should be discussed as a package, as proposed by the Secretary-General. One should not be pessimistic, as there was a high level of agreement among Member States on certain areas, in particular the issue of development, where there was consensus and concrete proposals, for example on the question of debt reduction. In most areas, consensus was broader than the differences. On the topic of security, Mr. Ping stated that there was general agreement on the need to create a peacebuilding commission, to support countries coming out of conflict in a longer-term, post-conflict process. On the issue of terrorism, though there were still differences on the definition of terrorism, there was general agreement on the need for a comprehensive counter-terrorism convention. On the question of the use of force and pre-emptive war, Mr. Ping stated that there was agreement that it was not necessary to re-interpret Article 51 of the Charter, and that guidelines had been proposed by the Secretary-General on interpreting the existing text.
Responding to a question as to what extent he envisaged a necessity to revise the Charter in the context of the reform process, and in what areas he thought the text of the Charter would be changed, Mr. Ping noted that the Charter had only been revised once in 1963, since the founding of the United Nations. He stated that, depending on the areas of agreement reached, the Charter would need modification in those articles related to expansion of the Security Council membership, the two references to 'enemy states', and to the abolition of the Trusteeship Council.
At the conclusion of the press briefing, Mr. Ping received a statement from the Vice-President Vienna of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO), on behalf of the Vienna-based representatives, expressing their appreciation on the scheduled General Assembly hearings on the current United Nations reform process and on strengthening the role of civil society.
The 17 media that were represented at the briefing included: Austrian Press Agency, ORF television, ORF radio, Die Presse, Der Standard, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, The Sekai Nippon, BBC Arabic Service, ANSA, and China Economic Daily.
Two individual interviews were arranged following the press briefing, one with 'Die Presse', a leading Austrian daily, and the other with Austrian radio 'ORF'.
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