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Outgoing General Assembly president urges more dialogue among civilizations

Outgoing General Assembly president urges more dialogue among civilizations

Outgoing GA president, Sheikha Haya (centre)
As the United Nations General Assembly wrapped up its sixty-first session today, the outgoing president, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain, urged greater focus in the years ahead on dialogue among civilizations before passing the gavel to her successor, Srgjan Kerim of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

As the United Nations General Assembly wrapped up its sixty-first session today, the outgoing president, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain, urged greater focus in the years ahead on dialogue among civilizations before passing the gavel to her successor, Srgjan Kerim of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

“From my perspective, as the only woman President for a generation, and the first from the Arab world, I have come to see the United Nations as a global family – a family that is becoming ever more interdependent,” said Sheikha Haya.

She acknowledged that differences will naturally arise but emphasized that “it is only in the spirit of collective responsibility that we can take further steps to build greater trust and cooperation.”

The President called for all concerned to accept their shared responsibilities and work together for positive change. “More than ever before, we need to focus on the underlying lack of dialogue between civilizations, cultures and nations that is at the core of many of today’s problems,” she said.

“We must tackle these issues squarely and, in doing so, we will have to move beyond the outdated mindset that separates the world into donors and recipients – North and South.”

Sheikha Haya, the first female General Assembly President since 1969 and the first Muslim woman to hold the post, has long emphasized the need to bridge the gap between Islam and the West. ‘Civilizations and the challenge for peace’ was the theme of one of several thematic debates she organized during the session to revitalize thinking on various issues.

On taking office last year, Sheikha Haya told reporters: “It does not matter that I am a Muslim or a Christian or Jewish. We are human beings and we have the same worries and we have the same problems.”

In her speech today, Sheikha Haya thanked Assembly members for their support during the past year and welcomed her successor, the president-elect of the 62nd session of the General Assembly, Mr. Kerim.

The incoming president is “an accomplished academic, a captain of industry, and an experienced diplomat. He is also a great believer in the United Nations.”

At the invitation of Sheikha Haya, Mr. Kerim, a former foreign minister and UN ambassador with international experience in academia, took the podium and received the presidential gavel from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

President Kerim will use this gavel for the first time tomorrow afternoon to officially open the Assembly’s sixty-second session.

In recent interviews, he has stressed his plans to focus the session on five main themes: responding to climate change; financing for development; implementing the global counter-terrorism strategy; advancing on management reform; and following up on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).