For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1680
Release Date:  6 September 2000
In Valedictory Message, Outgoing President Reviews Fifty-fourth
Assembly Session, Pinpoints Outstanding Issues

NEW YORK, 5 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the statement by General Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) to the closing meeting of the fifty-fourth session of the Assembly:

We have now come to the end of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly and it is time for me to prepare handing over the gavel to my worthy successor.  We had a unique and most memorable experience.  It was the first ever session of the General Assembly which straddled two centuries and two millennia.  Foremost of the most memorable things was the responsibility of preparing for the unprecedented United Nations Millennium Summit of heads of State and government  The world will be witnessing the largest gathering of world leaders.  It is really making history, and the final declaration will put the meat on the bones.

We held three special sessions:  the first one was held in September last year on Small Island Developing States and their special needs.  And the other two took place in June this year as a follow-up to the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference, and as a follow-up to the 1995 World Summit on Social Development, in New York and Geneva respectively.

All three special sessions adopted action-oriented declarations and platforms for implementation, taking into consideration the outstanding progress already made by Member States and other key international and national stakeholders.  I recommend that the fifty-fifth session pays close attention to these important outcome documents and give effect to their recommendations.

We actively pursued the agenda of the Open-ended Working Group on the reform and enlargement of the Security Council.  Regrettably, the debate is into its seventh year.  Once again, it proved impossible for Member States to resolve the major sticking points, among them, the admission of new permanent members, the exercise of veto and some problematic procedural matters.
 There is, however, some noticeable progress as regards the working methods of the Security Council.  The Council has begun opening up its meetings to the other United Nations Member States as well as interacting informally with non-governmental organizations.  This openness and flexibility must be encouraged.  The fundamental problem seems to be the manifest lack of political will, on the part of some permanent members.  In the light of this gridlock, which is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, I am of the view that we revisit the fixed position of a “package deal”.  There are some new and creative ideas to move the debate forward. 

In the meantime, I hope that the growing sense of urgency among a large number of States about the need to reform, enlarge and democratize the Security Council will be embraced by all.  I invite delegates to carefully study the latest report of the aforementioned Working Group.  It contains some creative ideas and practical proposals on the way forward. 

Moreover, pursuant to General Assembly resolutions 53/92 and 54/234, I established a working group to operationalize the implementation of the Secretary-General’s recommendations contained in his 1998 report on the causes of conflict and the consequences thereof in Africa.  The Working Group has submitted practical proposals to overcome any bottlenecks, taking into account the outstanding recommendations of the Economic and Social Council.  Those proposals are attached to the report that is now before the fifty-fifth session of the Assembly.

On another but related issue, the Assembly also decided to convene, in 2001, a critical intergovernmental conference on financing for development.  This is a topical subject which is today at the core of the current debate on development, poverty eradication, debt cancellation, full employment and prosperity for all.  I see it in the context of a global challenge which hinges on both political will and resource mobilization that I have talked about.

In this context, I undertook setting up a Bureau of the Preparatory Committee, and its planning activities have commenced in earnest.  The participation in the forthcoming high-level conference by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other actors is indispensable from the word go.  We need such partnerships in order to fulfil the goals and development plans of the United Nations.  I commend the General Assembly for having launched this, what I consider as, people-driven rescue operation. 

The United Nations Millennium Summit will start tomorrow in this Plenary Hall.  It is, indeed, a historic moment, both for the United Nations and humanity at large.  By the time the general debate starts next week, we will celebrate its outcome and pay tribute to the world leaders for their collective will towards world peace, cooperation, development and for their reaffirmation of support for the United Nations.

It was my privilege to have presided over the preparations for the Millennium Summit, and I want to thank all delegations for their cooperation in bringing these preparations to a successful conclusion.  The Millennium Summit will adopt a final declaration.  It is expected to be a politically authoritative document of an historic import, commensurate with the uniqueness of the Summit itself for all times. 

During the course of my Presidency, I remained faithful to the mandate of the General Assembly, consistent with the United Nations Charter.  I tried to give equal importance to all the agenda items and those issues that came up from different sources, within the context of the mandate given to the Assembly.

There were, however, certain matters that I felt needed extra emphasis because of what I considered to be their critical impact on the United Nations, its Member States and the world at large.  Those issues included United Nations reform; humanitarian intervention; women’s rights; the plight of children; HIV/AIDS pandemic; poverty eradication; debt burden; financing for development; and enhancement of the authority and integrity of the General Assembly.  I will elaborate on them on another occasion, in my capacity as Namibia’s Foreign Minister.

Earlier, I mentioned the protracted and frustrating United Nations reform process.  I would like to reiterate my strong views in relation, in particular, to the functions and powers of the General Assembly.  The Charter stipulates encompassing and indisputable functions and powers of the Assembly in various places.  These qualities have been further enlarged significantly by subsequent United Nations resolutions and decisions, not excluding the role of the General Assembly in the field of peacekeeping and peace enforcement.

During the past 12 months, I personally witnessed the extent to which the authority and integrity of the General Assembly continued to have been objects of denigration to curry favour with the other organs.  I had earlier expressed my concerns on this subject in my acceptance speech last year.  It is high time for the Member States, particularly those from the developing countries, to redress the persistent attacks on, and marginalization of this foremost organ of the United Nations, the General Assembly. 

From 1960 onwards, the membership of the United Nations has grown by leaps and bounds, and stands now at 188.  Today it will become 189.  The General Assembly is, unlike any other, the most representative, democratic, transparent, deliberative and policy-making organ of the United Nations.  The real business starts and ends here.  This is one of the burning issues so close to my heart that I will deal with later. For now, my job is done.  That is what I came for, nothing more, nothing less.  But the General Assembly endures.  That is my imprimatur.

I am not the first, and will definitely not be the last, to renew the call for more closer and regularized cooperation, coordination and action among the Officers of the General Assembly, Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the Secretariat.  Such institutionalized, routinized and sustained interaction at the highest levels of our Organization will reinforce its capacity to measure success and ensure cost-effectiveness and efficiency throughout the system.

This is absolutely vital at the time when rapidly changing international circumstances and challenges require one vision, one voice and joint action through the principal organs of the United Nations.  I did not forget the others, but these four are at the centre of the day-to-day activities of our Organization.

The United Nations faces challenging times in this new century.  One of the best ways of ensuring its efficacy and performance is for it to be provided with sufficient resources and assured political support.  To this end, Member States must pay their assessed and legally obligatory contributions on time, in full and without conditions.  This matter has now become a bone of serious contention with, indeed, serious political repercussions for the United Nations.  The current state of the Organization’s finances is precarious and a lasting solution must be found urgently.

During the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly, Member States will deal once again with a lengthy agenda containing a whole gamut of critical challenges and current problems facing the United Nations.  But we know only too well, don’t we, that virtually all the debilitating and critical social issues in the world have been short-listed, analysed and defined into specific programmes and plans for action, a long time ago.

We know all this from the United Nations summits of the 1990s that had sought to place before the Member States for public policy, prioritizing and financing for development by the international community.  The goals of those people-centred agendas remain intact.. They are summed up in the words peace, development, resource mobilization and human security. 

If there is determined political will backed up by adequate financial resources, the developing countries and their poor masses will be well-placed to deal effectively with the problems of education for all, gender equality, healthcare, childcare, poverty eradication, rural development, clean water and infrastructure building.  I am saying, we all exactly know the problems, the needs and the priorities of the poor.  What has been in short supply is delivery of resources to engender sustainable social development.

Over the last year, I spoke up at every opportunity on the heart-wrenching topic of the suffering of, and deliberate violence against, the world’s children, especially those trapped in armed conflict.  I have tried to help sensitize the international community, together with so many other co-workers throughout the world.  I have used my Office to raise higher the profile of this very difficult problem.  I want to pay tribute to all United Nations agencies, organizations, offices and individuals the world over who have become a part and parcel of this noble crusade.

Their efforts to ensure a better, safer and more humane place for the sake of the leaders of the future and repositories of our human civilization -– our children -– will sustain this most sacred cause.  Our children are tomorrow’s champions of dialogue, not clash of world civilizations, which make us different but yet unite us in diversity.  We are one; we swim together or we sink together.  The choice is ours.  But saving children must come first.

The General Assembly this year adopted two new Protocols to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.  This welcome achievement will further assist in the betterment of the welfare of children, their protection from child labour, from sexual exploitation, from destructive wars and from shameful pornography.

While I am encouraged by the growing commitment by the United Nations Member States to safeguard and promote the well-being of children, quite a lot still remains to be done.  The General Assembly must continue to remain vigilant in protecting our children, blame and shame by name and place their tormentors and accomplices.

One of the most urgent challenges today is that of putting the needs of the people at the centre of the global agenda of peace and development and democracy.  This is what I said during the closing ceremony of the Special Session on Social Development in Geneva:  “We must summon all the necessary political will, mobilize the requisite resources and focus on people-centred priorities to defeat poverty, hunger, want and fear from the face of the earth, once and for all.  Compassion, generosity and sharing are noble virtues that should govern human relations.

While the United Nations is not a perfect organization, it is the only truly universal and representative international common home we have.  It is here and nowhere else that we can together ensure international peace and development for the benefit of all.  This must be our common hope and expectation from the United Nations Millennium Summit, which starts tomorrow in this majestic Hall of States as well as of “We the Peoples”.

I have a long roster of wonderful people to thank.  I will happily do that in the fullness of time.

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