Press Releases

                14 September 2004

    General Assembly Concludes Fifty-Eighth Session

    NEW YORK, 13 September (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly closed its fifty-eighth substantive session this afternoon, with outgoing President, Julian Robert Hunte (Saint Lucia), praising the body’s genuine drive to overcome the crisis of confidence that had gripped the United Nations in the wake of the war in Iraq.

    The Assembly, he continued, had proceeded to make real headway on such issues as sustainable development, revitalizing the Assembly’s work and reform of the Security Council, which had languished on its agenda without comprehensive resolution for ten years.  Reviewing the strides the body had made during the past year, he said that multilateralism had been the guiding principle of his presidency and the basis on which decisions were made on the issues on the Assembly’s wide-ranging agenda. The “negotiating table” had been given a central role.

    “This is how it ought to be”, when addressing global challenges such as terrorism, HIV/AIDS, poverty and nuclear proliferation, he said, recapping the Assembly’s actions in those areas and highlighting related events that had taken place during the fifty-eighth session such as the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development and commemoration of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. “My presidency was one that ensured that the General Assembly broke free of convention in challenging times that demand new ideas, vision and innovation”, he added.

    The results of two ground-breaking resolutions on revitalizing the work of the Assembly were already evident, he stated, particularly in the positive changes under way in the Office of the President and in furthering cooperation among the Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Action had already been taken to make the Assembly’s agenda more accessible, and overall, an effective framework had been set out to sustain the drive to revitalize the body.  The issue of convening the Assembly over two substantive periods was one of the issues that had been set aside and which would be discussed during the fifty-ninth session.

    It was fair to say that the Assembly’s outlook today was more positive, and rightly so, he said.  But he acknowledged that the commendable accomplishments of the fifty-eighth Assembly could not be measured by the successes of one session. Keeping in step with the ideals of the Charter required continuous efforts. “I am heartened to leave the Assembly with a more positive outlook. Our accomplishments over the session prove what we can achieve when we work together, cooperatively, with a clear sense of purpose underpinned by political will.”

    The Assembly concluded consideration of over 30 items on its 2004 agenda, including follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit, environment and sustainable development, information and communication technologies for development, and the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, and deferred a number of them to the fifty-ninth session. It decided to consider the report of the ECOSOC at its sixtieth session.

    Also this afternoon, the Assembly adopted a resolution by which it approved the draft relationship agreement between the International Criminal Court and the United Nations, and decided to apply the Agreement provisionally pending its formal entry into force. The Assembly was informed that no additional appropriation would be required in view that all expenses relating to the services, facilities, cooperation and any other support provided by the United Nations to the Court would be on a reimbursable basis. That text was introduced by the representative of the Netherlands.

    Before the Assembly took that decision, the representative of the United States said his country’s opposition to the Court was well known. The United States respected the right of States to become party to the Rome Statute, but expected similar respect for its decision not to become party to that instrument. Among other things, the United States was concerned by the potential for politically motivated prosecution of its service members and leaders. The structure of the Court made such unacceptable proceedings possible.

    He said the Court also had problems in the related areas of jurisdiction and judicial processes. The Rome Statute raised, but did not satisfactorily address, due process concerns, particularly when the Court had to reconcile various languages and legal precedents. Also, it diluted the work of the Security Council.  The Court was not a part of the United Nations Charter and no one should lose sight of its independent nature. He had been pleased that the current agreement did not bind parties not belonging to the Statute to financial implications of the Court’s continuance. His delegation would not join consensus, but that position should reflect its commitment to the rule of law, not opposition to it.

    China’s representative said he appreciated the draft relationship agreement, and understood the need for the establishment of an independent international judicial body. China looked forward to efforts to strengthen that relationship, but was not fully satisfied with the current text. Among other things, he believed that all official documents of the United Nations should be distributed simultaneously in all six languages. On observer status of the Court in the Assembly, it was up to the Assembly to make such decisions. To grant such participation by agreement was not in conformity with Assembly procedure.

    In addition, the Assembly decided that the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters should be considered during the fifty-ninth session of the Assembly. It did so through the adoption of a draft decision contained in the report of the Working Group on the issue (A/58/47), which was introduced by the two Co-Chairs of the Group, Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador and Ambassador Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein.

    At the top of the meting, the Assembly President expressed the Organization’s sympathy and strong solidarity with the governments and peoples of the Caribbean suffering the after-effects of a series of recent devastating hurricanes and tropical storms that have struck that region.

    Following that, the representative of Jamaica said that this was an anxious time for his country, particularly with the most recent hurricane -- Ivan -- still ravaging the region. To some extent, his country had been spared the worst when that storm unexpectedly shifted its course. But sadly, Grenada had taken a direct hit and the devastation there was heartrending.  For its part, Jamaica was in the process of picking up the pieces and could thus far report 15 deaths and extensive damage to property. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) was already on the scene and Jamaica looked forward to further coordinated assistance from the United Nations system.

    The representative of Cuba followed with sincere thanks and appreciation for the constant messages of solidarity and support in the wake of hurricane Charlie as well as on the imminent threat of the arrival hurricane Ivan. He said that some 1.6 million people had been evacuated from the island nation in an attempt to save the maximum number of lives. He expressed solidarity with the other nations of the Caribbean that had also been devastated by the recent severe weather.

    The fifty-eighth session closed with one minute of silence.

    The opening of the Assembly’s fifty-ninth session will take place tomorrow, 14 September, at 3 p.m.

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