|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1676|
|Release Date: 6 September 2000|
| General Assembly, Bringing Down Curtain on Fifty-fourth Session,
Reviews Past 12 Months, Clears Unfinished Business
NEW YORK, 5 September (UN Headquarters) -- During the past 12 months, the authority and integrity of the General Assembly had been denigrated by Member States seeking to curry favour with other United Nations organs, Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) told delegations at the closing of the fifty-fourth session this morning.
He said it was high time for Member States, particularly those from the developing countries, to redress the persistent attacks on and marginalization of the foremost organ of the United Nations. The membership of the United Nations had grown and now stood at 188, soon to be 189. The Assembly was the most representative, democratic and transparent deliberative and policy-making body of the United Nations. “The real business starts here and ends here”, he said.
Regrettably, the debate on the reform and enlargement of the Security Council was now into its seventh year. It had once more proved impossible, he said, for Member States to resolve major sticking points -- among them, the admission of new permanent members, the exercise of veto and some problematic procedural matters. Regarding the working methods of the Council, the fundamental problem seemed to be the manifest lack of political will on the part of some of the permanent members. In light of that gridlock, there was need to revisit the fixed position of a “package deal”.
In other action this morning, the Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted a resolution on a Declaration for the Millennium Assembly. The Declaration enunciates shared values and principles from the gathered Heads of State and Government, in which they reaffirm their faith in the United Nations and its Charter, and acknowledge their collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity. The gathering also maintains that today's central challenge is ensuring that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world’s people.
Also this morning, the Assembly adopted a decision submitted by 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. In it, the Assembly welcomed the provisional agreements that had been recorded on a large number of issues related to the working methods of the Council. It encouraged the Working Group to continue to exert efforts to achieve progress on equitable representation and increase in the membership of the Council, and decided that the Group should continue its work at the fifty-fifth session.
The Assembly also took note of an appeal made in connection with the Olympic Truce, urging Member States to observe that Truce during the XXVII Olympiad, to be held in Sydney, Australia, from 15 September to 1 October. The idea of the Truce dates back to the ancient Greek tradition of ekecheiria –- when all hostilities would cease during the Games.
The President said that with the United Nations flag flying at the XXVII Olympic Games, adherence to the Truce would gain even greater symbolism. He urged all those now engaged in armed struggle to suspend hostilities in keeping with the observance.
The Assembly also decided to defer consideration of the following items until its fifty-fifth session: United Nations reform; strengthening the United Nations system; revitalization of the work of the Assembly; restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields; the question of Cyprus; improving the financial situation of the United Nations; financing of the United Nations Operation in Somalia II; financing of the United Nations Operation in Mozambique; financing of the United Nations Mission in Haiti; financing of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia; financing of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda; cooperation concerning the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; and armed aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The President reminded delegations that the Assembly had previously acted on the other items on the draft agenda.
The President informed the Assembly that the following countries had made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter: Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Saint Lucia, Turkmenistan, Vanuatu and Yemen.
[Article 19 states that a Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.]
Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of Iraq, France (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), United States, Russian Federation, China, Thailand, Nigeria (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Cuba, Israel, Colombia, Sudan, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire and Niger.
The representative of Kuwait spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. to open its fifty-fifth session.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this morning to conclude its fifty-fourth session. It was scheduled to take action on: a draft resolution on the problem of HIV/ AIDS; a text on the admission of Tuvalu to membership of the United Nations; a decision contained in a report on the question of equitable representation on the Security Council and related matters; a letter from the Chairman of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) addressed to the President of the Assembly on sustainable development and international economic cooperation; a note verbale from Austria on cooperation between the United Nations and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization; and a note verbale from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on armed aggression against that country.
The Assembly was also expected to defer consideration of items to its fifty-fifth session, hear a closing statement from its President and observe a moment of silent prayer before it officially closes its fifty-fourth session.
Draft resolution on the review of the problem of the HIV virus/AIDS in all its aspects
By the terms of a draft resolution (document A/54/L.88/Rev.1) the Assembly would decide to convene a special session for three days -- preferably in May 2001 but not later than the end of its fifty-sixth regular session -- to review and address the problem of HIV/AIDS in all its aspects and to coordinate and intensify international efforts to combat it, as soon as possible.
Draft resolution on the admission of Tuvalu to membership of the United Nations
By the terms of the draft (document A/55/L.1), the Assembly would decide to admit Tuvalu as a Member of the Organization.
Report of 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 (A/54/47)
The report includes a draft decision by which the Assembly would welcome the progress achieved so far in considering the working methods of the Council, as provisional agreement had been recorded on a large number of issues. It would encourage the Working Group to continue to exert efforts to achieve progress concerning equitable representation and increase in the membership of the Council. It would further decide that the Group continue its work at the fifty-fifth session.
The Group held 32 meetings during five substantive sessions held throughout the year. The President of the Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) served as Chairman and Hans Dahlgren (Sweden) and John de Saram (Sri Lanka) served as Vice-Chairmen.
Also before the Assembly is a note verbale from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (A/54/969) requesting the Assembly to again include the item “Armed aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo” on its agenda for this session.
In another note verbale (A/54/966), Austria requests that an item entitled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Organization” be included on the agenda and be debated in plenary without being referred to a Main Committee.
The Assembly will also consider a letter from the Chairman of the Second Committee (A/54/952) regarding consultations held to determine details for the second high-level dialogue on the theme of “responding to globalization: facilitating the integration of developing countries into the world economy in the twenty-first century”. The Chairman reports that delegations felt the two-day high-level dialogue should be held immediately before the commencement of the general debate of the Assembly. Delegations also felt that a combination of plenary meetings, ministerial round tables and informal panels would be the best format, followed by a President’s summary at the closure of the dialogue. Furthermore, delegates agreed that the two sub-themes should be “promoting the integration of developing countries into the world economy and generating new public and private financial resources to complement development efforts” and “enhancing integration of developing countries in the emerging global information network, facilitating access for developing countries to information and communication technology”.
Also before the General Assembly was a draft resolution submitted by Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) (document A/54/L.89). By its terms the fifty-fourth session of the Assembly would refer a draft Millennium Declaration to the United Nations Millennium Summit, which is to be held from 6 to 8 September.
The draft Declaration, which is annexed to the resolution, contains 32 operative paragraphs. It commences with a statement of shared values and principles from the gathered Heads of State and Government, in which they reaffirm their faith in the United Nations and its Charter, and acknowledge their collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity. The draft Declaration states that the central challenge of today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world’s people. Freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility are identified as fundamental values essential to international relations.
To translate those values into action, the draft Declaration assigns special significance to certain key objectives, identified under seven headings. Under the heading "Peace and Security", it would have those at the Summit commit to sparing no effort to free people from the scourge of war and also seek to eliminate the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction.
Among the objectives listed under "Development and Eradication of Poverty", the Summit would resolve to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than a dollar a day and the proportion who suffer from hunger.
By its paragraphs headed "Protecting our Common Environment", it would have those attending the Summit make every effort to ensure the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, press for full implementation of the Conventions on Biological Diversity and on Desertification, and stop unsustainable exploitation of water resources, among other matters.
Among the objectives listed under "Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance", the draft would have the Summit resolve to fully respect and uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, strengthen countries’ capacities to implement the principles and practices of democracy and respect for human rights and ensure the freedom of the media and the right of the public to access information.
The Summit would also make resolutions to protect the vulnerable, to meet the special needs of Africa and to strengthen the United Nations.
Action on Drafts:
Building a better world through sport and the Olympic ideal
Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of the General Assembly, drew attention to document A/54/971, which contained a solemn appeal made on 1 September 2000 in connection with the observance of the Olympic Truce. On 24 November 1999, the Assembly adopted resolution 54/34, in which it urged Member States to observe the Truce during the XXVII Olympiad, to be held in Sydney, Australia, from 15 September to 1 October. The idea of that Truce dated back to the ancient Greek tradition of ekecheiria –- when all hostilities would cease during the Games.
He said humanity’s quest was for a world free of hatred and war, where the ideals of peace, goodwill and mutual respect formed the basis of relations among countries. That goal might still be elusive, but if the Truce could help to bring about even a brief respite from conflict and strife, it would send a powerful message of hope to the international community. With the United Nations flag flying at the XXVII Olympic Games, adherence to the Truce would gain even greater symbolism. He urged all those now engaged in armed struggle to suspend hostilities in keeping with the observance.
The Assembly then took note of the appeal in connection with the Olympic Truce.
Millennium Assembly of the United Nations
The President said that in view of the need to dispose of the item (draft resolution A/54/L.89) expeditiously, it would be necessary to waive the relevant provisions of rule 78 of the rules of procedure, which state that: “As a general rule, no procedure shall be discussed or put to the vote at any meeting of the Assembly unless copies of it have been circulated to all delegations not later than the day preceding the meeting.”
The Assembly then agreed with the proposal.
MOHAMMED AL-HUMAMIDI (Iraq) said his delegation had already presented its comments on the section on sanctions in the text. That section contained double standards: its provisions on sanctions did not represent the point of view of the international community and Member States, expressed in Assembly resolution 242/51 which was adopted by consensus. That text had put forward the basic principles on sanctions -- namely the need to use all peaceful means before resorting to sanctions.
He said economic sanctions could only be imposed when they conformed to the principles of the Charter. They could not be used for pure revenge or reprisals. Unfortunately the United States, the United Kingdom and their Kuwaiti agents had insisted on maintaining a sub-paragraph in the section on sanctions. That paragraph allowed innocent populations to be targeted through sanctions. Iraq was surprised at the flagrant use of double standards in a United Nations document that was going to be adopted on the eve of a new millennium. The paragraph had no legal or moral legitimacy, and Iraq could not accept the text.
The President said he would take serious exception to Iraq’s previous statement. There were more than the three countries mentioned that did not support Iraq. While the Iraqi representative had the right to place the position of his Government on record, he still took very serious exception to the implications of that country’s statement.
Action on draft
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution A/54/L.89 without a vote.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his group did not want an international conference on disarmament but a special session of the Assembly.
BETTY KING (United States) said the draft was the result of extensive negotiations and compromise. The combined goals would identify key objectives for the future. Her country, however, had reservations about the section on the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. She also expressed further reservations to the proposed international conference on that issue. The United States strongly believed that climate change was a world problem that required global solutions.
She noted that the section on meeting the special needs of Africa advocated debt cancellation. The United States felt that it would have been more useful for Member States and the United Nations to work with the Governments of Africa towards debt relief.
GENNADI M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said the move towards achieving the goals of nuclear disarmament was necessary in order to implement agreements already in place. Strengthening strategic stability was critical.
DHONGUA WANG (China), referring to paragraph 9 on the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, said his delegation assumed that the proposed international conference would be convened under the existing disarmament framework.
MANOP MEKPRAYOONTHONG (Thailand), referring to paragraph 10, said that arms transfers must be more transparent.
SORAYA ELENA ÁLVAREZ (Cuba) said she believed that the draft was well balanced and reflected the positive majority of views. Her delegation had no reservations. She reiterated that nuclear weapons should be completely eliminated.
BADER MOHAMMAD E. AL-AWDI (Kuwait) spoke in exercise of the right of reply to the statement made earlier by Iraq. That country had accused his country of being an agent of certain States. Kuwait was working with all the members of the Assembly. And Iraq’s accusations were not true.
AARON JACOB (Israel), speaking in explanation of vote after adoption, said his country had joined the consensus but wished to register a formal reservation to the second bullet of paragraph 26.
ANDRES FRANCO (Colombia) said it was regrettable that something on the Cartagena Protocol had not been included.
The Assembly then adopted the decision concerning the Working Group on the Security Council.
The Assembly deferred consideration of the following items until its fifty-fifth session: United Nations reform; strengthening the United Nations system; revitalization of the work of the Assembly; restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields; the question of Cyprus; improving the financial situation of the United Nations; financing of the United Nations Operation in Somalia II; financing of the United Nations Operation in Mozambique; financing of the United Nations Mission in Haiti; financing of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia; financing of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda; cooperation concerning the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; and armed aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Assembly also took note of the letter from the Chairman of the Second Committee concerning the high-level dialogue on sustainable development.
The representative of Ukraine introduced the draft resolution on the review of the problem of HIV/AIDS.
PHILIPPE BOSSIERE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the challenge of the AIDS epidemic was profound and required joint and coordinated actions. The United Nations was an irreplaceable forum for dealing with the matter. He supported the convening of a special session and said that the time frame that had been identified in the resolution was a realistic one.
The representative of Sudan drew attention to a typographical discrepancy in the Arabic version.
The representatives of Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Niger requested inclusion as co-sponsors.
The President announced the following additional countries as co-sponsors: Guatemala, Malta, Russian Federation, Slovenia, United States, Belarus, Iceland, Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Myanmar, Haiti, Suriname, Kenya, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Niger.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution without a vote.
THEO-BEN GURIRAB (Namibia), President, said that regrettably, the debate on the reform and enlargement of the Security Council was into its seventh year. Once again, it proved impossible for Member States to resolve the major sticking points -- among them, the admission of new permanent members, the exercise of veto and certain problematic procedural matters. While there was some noticeable progress on the working methods of the Council, the fundamental problem seemed to be the manifest lack of political will by some of the permanent members. In light of that gridlock, there was need to revisit the fixed position of a “package deal”.
He said during his Presidency there were certain matters that he felt needed extra emphasis because of what he considered to be their critical impact on the United Nations, its Member States and the world at large. Those issues included reform of the Organization; humanitarian intervention; women’s rights; the plight of children; the HIV/AIDS pandemic; poverty eradication; the debt burden; financing for development; and enhancement of the authority and integrity of the General Assembly.
During his past 12 months as Assembly President, he said, he had witnessed the extent to which the authority and integrity of the Assembly continued to become objects of denigration to curry favour with the other organs. It was high time for Member States, particularly those from the developing countries, to redress the persistent attacks on and marginalization of the foremost organ of the United Nations. The membership of the United Nations had grown and now stood at 188. Today it would become 189. The Assembly was the most representative, democratic and transparent deliberative and policy-making organ of the United Nations. The real business started here and ended here.
He said he was not the first and would definitely not be the last to renew the call for more closer and regularized cooperation, coordination and action, among the officers of Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the Secretariat. Such institutionalized, routine and sustained interaction at the highest levels of the Organization would reinforce its capacity to measure success and ensure cost-effectiveness and efficiency throughout the system.
That, he continued, was absolutely vital at a time when rapidly changing international circumstances required one vision, one voice and joint action through the key principal organs of the United Nations. While the United Nations was not a perfect organization, it was the only truly universal and representative international common home of the international community. It was here and nowhere else that delegates could together ensure world peace and development for the benefit of all. That must be the common hope and expectation from the United Nations Millennium Summit, which starts tomorrow in this majestic hall of States as well as of “We the Peoples”.
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