In a bid to capitalize on the momentum of the recently concluded World Summit that brought together the largest-ever number of leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, the President of the UN's main legislative body outlined today "an ambitious agenda" to move the Organization forward in a number of crucial areas, including peacebuilding, development, human rights and management reform.
"I think this is a unique opportunity for the General Assembly to assert itself," Jan Eliasson of Sweden told a press conference at UN Headquarters, where he made public a letter he had sent to Member States setting out a series of concrete steps to follow-up on the Outcome Document adopted by the 2005 World Summit.
"This year," he said, "the Assembly is faced with the task of keeping up the momentum of the Millennium Development Goals, setting up a Peacebuilding Commission, setting up a new Human Rights Council and having a convention on terrorism. If there was ever an opportunity for revitalization, this is it."
To comply with deadlines set by the World Summit, Mr. Eliasson stressed in his letter to the organization's 191 members that negotiations on key issues had to start immediately.
To help with the tight schedule he said he would appoint two co-chairs by next Tuesday to prepare for a short period of consultations, followed by more intense negotiations, so that a draft resolution could be presented in time for a Peacebuilding Commission to be operational by early January.
Mr. Eliasson also noted that Member States wanted work on a new Human Rights Council before the Human Rights Commission begins work in Geneva at the end of February.
In an effort to comply with the end-of-year deadline for concluding a comprehensive convention on terrorism, he said that the chair of the Assembly's legal committee intended to give the matter priority in his work programme.
On management reform, he said the Assembly would try to deliver as many concrete measures as possible in cooperation with the Secretariat. The Assembly would also keep high on its agenda the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the ambitious set of targets to reduce poverty and other ills by 2015, and consider as a matter of priority the new functions to be given to the Economic and Social Council. There would be a thematic debate on development early in the session.
In regard to both Security Council reform and disarmament and nuclear proliferation, there would have to be creative thinking to overcome the deadlock that kept consensus from being reached at the Summit. Noting that, in particular, lack of progress in proliferation was a major disappointment to many, he said, "I'm sure some new ideas will come out of this disappointment."
"The Document should not set a limit on our ambitions," his letter said, referring to the areas that were not adequately addressed in the Summit's Outcome document. "Rather it should be a beachhead from which we launch ourselves forward."
Under the time pressure of the session, Mr. Eliasson would still strive for consensus, or the widest-possible agreement on all issues. "But it has to be a consensus that produces good results," he said.