The United Nations General Assembly opened its 58th annual session today with a minute of silence for staff killed in the terrorist attack in Baghdad, a pledge to persevere in the speedy restoration of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, a promise to pursue the benefits of multilateralism embodied by the world organization and a plea for reform.
"The people of the world are looking to us to give them hope, seeing that we are working to implement solutions to their problems," the Assembly's new president, Julian Robert Hunte, Foreign Minister of the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, told the 191 Member States from the podium, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan sitting at his side.
Paying homage to the top UN envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and the 21 others killed in last month's terrorist bombing, Mr. Hunte said: "I believe the United Nations should remain focused on its objectives in Iraq - to facilitate the restoration of peace and security, to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the restoration of sovereignty to the people of Iraq.
"This would be the most fitting tribute to the sacrifice and hard work of Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello and his colleagues," he added.
Mr. Hunte, who succeeds Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic in the Assembly Presidency, said the UN must actively pursue the benefits of multilateralism at this "critical juncture" as it faces extraordinary circumstances of great magnitude.
"We must reaffirm the central role of the United Nations, the most important multilateral organization ever established, and which has stood the test of time," he declared. "We must uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law."
Referring to possible reforms, the new President noted that Mr. Annan had recently indicated that the time may have come for a radical restructuring of the UN, including a realignment of its principle organs, and he called for revitalizing and strengthening the Assembly.
He also placed the Assembly at the centre of the "unfolding global socio-economic transformation," adding that it "has an important role to play in ensuring that globalization and trade liberalization are compatible with achieving equity in the global economy, and that the aspirations of all countries for sustainable development, prosperity and peace are met."
Globalization and liberalization "will have failed if they result only in enriching the few at the expense of the many, or creating and accentuating inequity and injustice in the global economy," he added.
"I have high hopes that the General Assembly is ready to break new ground and to record significant accomplishments during the 58th session," he concluded. "To do so, however, requires us to choose principle over expediency, precision over ambiguity, objectivity over bias, and creative thinking over inflexibility. Above all we need action over inaction."