Press Releases

    11 June 2004

    General Assembly Elects Jean Ping of Gabon As President of Fifty-Ninth Session, Decides on Officers for Main Committees

    Also Adopts Resolutions on Convening of Small Islands Conference in January, Declaration of 2005 As International Year of Physics

    NEW YORK, 10 June (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly this morning elected Jean Ping, Minister of State, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and la Francophonie of Gabon, as the President of its fifty-ninth session. The new President will assume his role upon the opening of the new session in September.

    Following his election, Mr. Ping noted that the election marked the tenth African presidency of the Assembly. He said it crowned his country’s participation for some 50 years in the noble mission of the United Nations to build a more caring world in which future generations would be freed from the ravages of war and underdevelopment.

    The achievement of that mission, however, depended on the participation and cooperation of all Members in a spirit of mutual understanding, dialogue and tolerance, he said. He proposed to pursue broadened consultations to continue the necessary effort to revitalize the Organization, reiterating his support for the Secretary-General’s determination in pursuing reform.

    Congratulating Mr. Ping upon his election, the President of the Assembly’s fifty-eighth session, Julian R. Hunte (Saint Lucia), said he hoped the progress being made during the current session would help make Mr. Ping’s tenure both dynamic and far-reaching. The current session had to date been a demanding one, in which the Assembly had sought to advance the work of the Organization in critical areas, including economic and social development.

    He said that much effort had been dedicated to revitalizing the work of the Assembly, including forging a closer working relationship with the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, refocusing some of the Assembly’s priorities and strengthening the Office of the President.

    A pressing priority included preparations for the 2005 high-level plenary meeting of the Assembly, for review of the integrated follow-up and implementation of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields, including the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals.

     Also important was the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which pointed the way forward in addressing, and where possible preventing, conflicts and catastrophes and promoting sustainable development in Africa. In its initiatives to further galvanize the continent, the Assembly would have an asset in President-elect Ping, a “son of Africa”.

    The representatives of the regional groups also took the floor to pay tribute to President Hunte and to congratulate President-elect Ping, as well as to express their sympathy and solidarity with the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

    At the outset of today’s meeting, the Assembly extended its deepest sympathy to the Governments and peoples of the Dominican Republic and Haiti for the tragic loss of life and extensive material damage that had resulted from the recent flooding in the two countries. The international community was called on to show its solidarity and respond promptly and generously to any request from the two countries for assistance in their present plight and any appeal for aid.

    Elections of Assembly Vice-Presidents, Committee Officers

    Also today, the following States were elected to vice-presidencies of the General Assembly: Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, China, Djibouti, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Iran, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan and Zambia.

    Additionally, each of the Main Committees, in separate meetings today, elected their officers for the fifty-ninth session.

    The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) elected Luis Alfonso de Alba (Mexico) as Chairman. Elected to the position of Vice-Chairmen were Dziunik Aghajanian (Armenia), Alon Bar (Israel), and Sylvester Ekundayo Rowe (Sierra Leone). Mohamed Ali Saleh Alnajar (Yemen) was elected as Rapporteur.

    The bureau of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) consists of: Marco Balarezo (Peru), Chairman; Antonio Bernardini (Italy), Majdi Ramadan (Lebanon) and Ewa Anzorge (Poland), Vice-Chairpersons; and Azanaw Tadesse Abreha (Ethiopia), Rapporteur.

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) elected Valery Kuchinsky (Ukraine) as its Chairman. Mavis Esi Kusorgbor (Ghana), Astanah Banu Shri Abdul Aziz (Malaysia), and Rachel Groux (Switzerland) were elected as Vice-Chairpersons. Also elected was Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez (El Salvador) as Committee Rapporteur.

    Elected to the bureau of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) were Kyaw Tint Swe (Myanmar) as Chairman; Helfried Carl (Austria), Eduardo Calderon (Ecuador), and Andrej Droba (Slovakia) as Vice-Chairpersons; and Kais Kabtani (Tunisia) as Rapporteur.

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) elected Don MacKay (New Zealand) as Committee Chairperson. Elected to the position of Vice-Chairpersons were Karen Lock (South Africa), Mohamed Najib Eljy (Syria), and Karla Samayoa-Ricari (Guatemala). Denisa Hutanova (Slovakia) was elected Rapporteur.

    Elected to the bureau of the Sixth Committee (Legal) were Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco) as Chairman; Ram Babu Dhakal (Nepal), Carlos Fernando Diaz (Costa Rica), and Csaba Simon (Hungary) as Vice-Chairmen; and Anna Sotaniemi (Finland) as Rapporteur.

    Other Action

    In other action, the Assembly adopted a resolution, contained in document A/58/L.63, by which it decided to convene the International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States from 10 to 14 January 2005 in Mauritius. It also decided to hold, if necessary, two days of informal consultations in Mauritius, on 8 and 9 January 2005, to facilitate the effective preparation of the Meeting.

    By the terms of another resolution adopted today, contained in document A/58/L.62, the Assembly declared the year 2005 the International Year of Physics, and invited the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to organize activities celebrating the Year, collaborating with physics societies and groups throughout the world, including in the developing countries.

    Introducing the text, Lebohang K. Moleko (Lesotho) said that, in 1905, Albert Einstein had published several scientific articles that had profoundly influenced understanding of the universe. He had introduced utterly revolutionary ideas on fundamental questions, including the existence of atoms, the nature of light and the concepts of space, energy and matter. The aim of the International Year went beyond the mere celebration of one of the greatest minds in physics in the twentieth century. The Year would provide an opportunity for the largest possible audiences to acknowledge the progress and importance of the great field of science.

    The Year should also be the occasion to begin prospective debates on the great need for scientific research in the twenty-first century, he said. The debates would also have to relate to social issues, which accompanied the practice of science, in general, and of physics, in particular. The ethical responsibilities for physicists were enormous. The Year would allow all practitioners, especially women, to more actively participate in its advancement. Countries around the world were preparing special events to celebrate the Year under the sponsorship of UNESCO. The launching of the Year would take place at UNESCO headquarters in Paris from 13 to 15 January 2005.

    Also today, the Assembly was informed that Afghanistan had made the necessary payment to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter.


    ENRIQUILLO DEL ROSARIO CEBALLOS (Dominican Republic) thanked members for their kindness to his country, which had been again struck by tragedy and pain. What had occurred had cast into mourning two nations that shared the same territory. Dominicans had felt anguish at the distressing news of grave floods in the region, which had caused many deaths and injuries. The material losses had also been alarming. Thus far, some 500 had been killed and some 1,000 hurt.

     Despite the impact of the disaster, the tragedy had awakened the solidarity of individuals and institutions both home and abroad, he said. It had been encouraging to see such solidarity in recent days. International organizations had been working on the ground to assess the damages caused by the disaster. Needs had been met through the help from compatriots abroad. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, with the help of the European Union and other countries, had worked to alleviate the magnitude of the impact. Those who had been affected by the terrible tragedy would never forget such help.

    LEO MERORES (Haiti) said both sides of the island continued to take stock of the loss of property and human life. For Haiti, search operations continued. The disaster had surprised the population in the middle of the night. Hundreds of cattle had been carried away, and entire communities had been engulfed. The private and public sectors in Haiti had come together to assist populations, despite the economic difficulties facing the country. The international community had also come to the assistance of the population by taking part in search operations and providing emergency aid. Having taken place at a delicate moment in Haiti’s existence, the disaster added one more item to the list of challenges facing the Government.

    Deforestation, the direct consequence of the country’s underdevelopment, was one of the causes of flooding, he said. While farmers understood the use of the tree as a means of protecting the land, they also had immediate needs, and deforestation was a quick way to meet those needs. Deforestation was an ill that undermined the Haitian peasant, plunging them further into a sphere of poverty. Organizations involved in reforestation must find international support to implement more sustainable policies. On 23-24 May 2004, Haiti had gone through the bitter experience as a lack of a comprehensive vision on deforestation. He reiterated its gratitude to those that had assisted the country in the current sombre moment.

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