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UN Assembly wraps up annual high-level debate with calls for action – President

UN Assembly wraps up annual high-level debate with calls for action – President

Srgjan Kerim
The United Nations General Assembly today wrapped up its wide-ranging high-level debate characterized by calls for action to address climate change and other pressing international concerns, the 192-member body’s president said.

Addressing the closing of the session, which began on 25 September and saw the participation of scores of national leaders, Srgjan Kerim thanked delegates for their “insightful” contributions during the debate.

“The presence of almost a hundred heads of State and government as well as about 80 ministers for foreign affairs is a mark of the importance the world places on this unique Assembly,” he said.

The President also drew attention to the “flurry of diplomatic activity” that accompanied the annual high-level meeting. “We have increased our visibility and the public and media have responded positively.”

Reflecting the views of many expressed during the session, he urged action on the theme of the debate: responses to climate change. “The latest reports about the accelerated melting of the Arctic have unnerved the experts. We need to be on high alert,” he cautioned.

“You have send a strong political message that the time for talk has passed – that the time for action has begun,” he told those present, declaring that “climate change has become the flagship issue” of the current Assembly session.

Reviewing the consensus that emerged during the just-concluded session, he cited wide agreement that adapting to global warming should not limit growth, but rather help achieve sustainable development. “We all agreed that we have common but differentiated responsibilities,” he said, adding that there was broad consensus that the UN “must remain at the centre of the process to reach a global agreement.”

Numerous participants, he said, endorsed the idea of a “road map to coordinate the United Nations system on climate change.”

Looking to a planned meeting in Bali this December aimed at hammering out a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, which limits greenhouse gas emissions but is set to expire in 2012, he said: “It is now up to you to deliver.”

Other issues which received close attention during the debate included the global anti-poverty targets collectively known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); the need for progress on financing for development ahead of the Doha Conference in 2008; and a “broad desire” to achieve consensus on a comprehensive convention against terrorism.

Participants also touched on the importance to adherence to international law, human security and the responsibility to protect, and discussed regional hotspots such as the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur and Myanmar.

“There is overall agreement that we could make faster progress on all these issues if our multilateral institutions better reflected contemporary realities, underlining the need for better progress on United Nations reform,” he said, citing a need to make the Secretariat more effective and to reform the Security Council.

At the outset of the debate, the President had indicated that he wanted to give priority to five priority areas: climate change, financing for development, countering terrorism, the MDGs and management reform.

In a statement released by his spokesman today, the President said the General Assembly “is the only forum where these priority issues can be tackled comprehensively and notes that the presence of over 90 world leaders in the debate underscored the importance Member States placed on this unique forum for multilateralism.”

In total, 189 Member States addressed the high-level debate, along with two observers: the Holy See and Palestine. A total of 67 heads of State, 25 heads of government, four vice-presidents, 13 deputy ministers, 66 foreign ministers, two other ministers, four deputy ministers and eight chairs of delegation spoke.