Swedish diplomat Jan Eliasson was elected today to preside over the sixtieth session of the United Nations General Assembly, which is scheduled to open on 13 September.
Mr. Eliasson currently serves as Ambassador of Sweden to the United States. He is a former State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. From 1988 to 1992 he was Sweden's Permanent Representative at the UN.
All 191 UN Member States are represented in the Assembly, which, as the world body's main deliberative organ, tackles issues ranging from global security and development concerns to UN budgetary and administrative matters.
This year it will focus particularly on negotiating Secretary-General Kofi Annan's UN reform proposals and reviewing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) designed to eradicate or reduce a host of socio-economic ills by the deadline year, 2015.
The outcome of the negotiations on reform so far has been put together by the current Assembly President, Jean Ping of Gabon, in a draft declaration to be voted on during a world summit, set for 14-16 September.
"At a time when the UN has entered a crucial phase of history, your long experience and diplomatic skills will serve you well in leading the work of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly and in pursuing the work begun the fifty-ninth session, notably the implementation of the various aspects of the current reform process," Mr. Ping told Mr. Eliasson after the vote.
Thanking the Assembly, Mr. Eliasson said its support took on special significance because "the legendary Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was born in Jönköping, Sweden, this year 100 years ago."
Mr. Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash in what is now Zambia as he was trying to negotiate a truce in a civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on behalf of the UN.
Mr. Eliasson said his Presidency would be guided by values and principles which are the pillars of Sweden's foreign policy: "belief in multilateral cooperation; the imperative of prevention; respect for the rule of law and human rights; solidarity with the poor and persecuted; and concern for the rights of women, for the children and for the health of Planet Earth."
The world was now facing a test of multilateralism, Mr. Eliasson said. "Will we develop the concepts and methods to deal with global problems in this age of rapid globalization? Will we be able to make the UN system a more effective actor on the world scene? These are major, even historic, tasks for our peoples, societies and governments, as well as for all of us here at the UN – we, the practitioners of multilateral diplomacy."