21 December 2006
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Announcing the conclusion of the main part of the General Assembly’s sixty-first session at Headquarters this morning, that organ’s President, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, highlighted several key areas in which progress had been made.

“I have tried to work with Member States and the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to build bridges and trust,” she said at a press conference, adding: “I believe that we all have a stake in achieving a safer and fairer world for all.  Only by working together can we make a real difference and meet the many challenges our world is facing.”

Among the achievements she highlighted were the Assembly’s adoption of a resolution to strengthen the Economic and Social Council, the creation of a $10 billion poverty eradication fund by the Islamic Development Bank, the widening of debates to include the private sector and civil society, and the adoption of two important international Conventions –- on the rights of persons with disabilities and on protection from enforced disappearances.

She went on to note that important debates on Security Council reform and revitalization of the General Assembly had moved forward, while the session had also seen the appointment of Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-moon finalized.  Though differences remained with specific regard to Security Council reform, it was to be hoped that there would be a “fresh and innovative” outlook in the new year.  “I have been encouraged by the constructive spirit that prevailed during the debate… there is clearly a growing desire to establish a credible process to achieve a meaningful outcome to this outstanding area of reform.”

Turning to Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) matters, she said reforms had taken place both in the Secretariat and in management, adding that she would continue working hard to ensure that a new scale of assessments for the apportionment of United Nations expenses for the period 2007-2009 would draw to a close.  Additionally, renovation of the Organization’s Headquarters was set to begin soon, with the Assembly’s adoption of the resolution on the Capital Master Plan.

Looking to the future, she said the Assembly would be holding two informal thematic debates: the first, to be held in March, on the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, which was integral to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The second debate concerned dialogue among civilizations, an issue regarding which the media were asked “to play an important role in supporting tolerance and mutual respect”, since they were ultimately responsible for representing peoples and cultures.

Asked about the status of negotiations on the apportionment of expenses and when agreement would be reached on that question, Sheikha Haya said the negotiation continued, and she believed a solution would be found today.

Responding to a question about the possibility of compromise on the scale of assessments, Yasser Elnaggar, the Assembly President’s Senior Adviser, said that, though there had been some movement on elements of methodology, the one contentious point remained the base period on which data were collected.  A number of delegations wished to maintain the current methodology for the next three years, but options on the table included Japan’s proposal for a shorter base period.  A proposal by the European Union put forth a base period of 6 years.  The current methodology, proposed by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, was six plus three years, or the average between six years and three years.  Japan’s demonstrated flexibility and ability to move towards that was supported by the United States.

Turning to women’s issues, Sheikha Haya said that the Secretary-General-designate had shown a “genuine concern for giving women a prominent role in the United Nations”, and that the Organization had an important role to play in empowering women in decision-making throughout the world.

Asked about Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s public statement about his country’s nuclear capability and how to address that, she replied that the United Nations existed “to build a culture of peace” through discussion with all Member States and, further, by adopting international conventions related to that issue.

Regarding how to change the perception that General Assembly resolutions lacked “teeth”, she said they formed “part of international public law” and, as such, had obligatory and legal effects on Member States.  It was simply “a matter of international culture and time”, she added in response to a question about enforcement of those resolutions.

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