Outgoing UN Assembly President says momentum needed to sustain reform progress

11 September 2006

As the General Assembly moved to close its sixtieth session today, the body’s outgoing president, Jan Eliasson, hailed the unprecedented reforms achieved during his tenure while cautioning that greater effort is needed to sustain that momentum during the coming session.

“The 60th General Assembly session’s score-card is a good one,” Mr. Eliasson told delegates this morning. Highlighting areas where progress was achieved, he cited the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council, as well as last week’s agreement on a UN counter-terrorism strategy.

He added that there was now a once-in-a-generation opportunity to “make poverty history,” with greater awareness of the global problem, better aid than ever before, and many governments committed to improving the lives of their peoples.

Mr. Eliasson noted, however, that many reforms were not achieved during the 60th session, including strengthening the Economic and Social Council and reforming the Security Council.

“More than ever before, we also need to focus on the underlying lack of dialogue among civilizations, cultures and nations,” he said. “There are no fewer tensions in the world of September 2006 than there were in 2005.”

Member States must also live up to the “responsibility to protect,” he added. The same horrors that befell Cambodia, Rwanda and Srebrenica while the world stood by should not be allowed to happen in Darfur or elsewhere, he said.

He also called for more action to ensure the different parts of the United Nations work together, as well as to build on the potential of regional organizations, the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to reach shared goals.

“The UN can never be the panacea,” he later told reporters at a press briefing. “The problems are so huge now that the UN can’t deal with them alone.”

Noting that the end of his tenure also fell on the fifth anniversary of September 11th terror attacks, Mr. Eliasson paid homage to the victims of that day, “as well as the thousands of others who have been victims of terrorism all over the world both before and since.”

He thanked Secretary-General Kofi Annan – whose second and final five-year term ends this year – for his “unfailing commitment to the principles and ideals of the United Nations, for his initiation and support of the reform process – and for his friendship over many years.”

And Mr. Eliasson extended the “warmest of welcomes” to his successor, Haya Rashid Al Khalifa, who tomorrow becomes the first female General Assembly President since 1969.