Press Releases

    15 September 2004

    World Was Increasingly Looking to UN to Help Respond to Global Challenges, New General Assembly President Says at Opening of Fifty-Ninth Session

    NEW YORK, 14 September (UN Headquarters) -- With today’s international outlook marked by the resurgence of terrorist activity and devastating natural disasters, escalating debt and lagging development assistance, the world was looking increasingly to the United Nations, and particularly its General Assembly, to help find ways to respond to global challenges, incoming Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) said today.

    “We are facing many complex international challenges, and no organization is better suited than the United Nations to address and resolve them”, President Ping said, as he opened the Assembly’s fifty-ninth session this afternoon.

    Prevailing over poverty, infringements in the rule of law, conflict, and HIV/AIDS, or effectively tackling environmental issues or the ethical aspects of human cloning required a “harmonious international environment”.  And that could only be ensured if the major organs of the United Nations -- the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) -- worked in harmony and fulfilled their prerogatives under the Charter, said Mr. Ping.

    He urged delegations, in that regard, to continue to press ahead with the Assembly reform initiatives that had been approved late last year.  “Every effort must be made to halt the erosion of the Assembly’s strengths” as the major United Nations forum for debating international issues, he said, adding that during this session, momentum must also be maintained in pursuit of long-sought reform of the Security Council.

    When faced with ongoing conflict in the Middle East and Africa, the spread of small arms and weapons of mass destruction, and deepening unrest in the Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan, “We have no other alternative”, Mr. Ping said, urging delegations to remain vigilant and work hard to ensure genuine peace and security, as well as the overall achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  With the United Nations celebrating its sixtieth anniversary next year, he also urged delegations to work together to adapt the Organization to the needs of the times.

    Mr. Ping opened his statement expressing solidarity and sympathy with local governments and people of the southern United States and of Caribbean nations as they struggled to cope with the after-effects of the recent series of devastating tropical storms and hurricanes that had struck those areas and regions.

    In action today, the Assembly appointed the States that would govern its Credentials Committee for the current session:  Benin, Bhutan, China, Ghana, Liechtenstein, Russian Federation, Trinidad and Tobago, United States and Uruguay.

    Also this afternoon, the Assembly took note of a letter from the Secretary-General (A/59/350) informing him that 13 Member States were in arrears in payments of their financial contributions to the Organization, in line with Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.

    Those States were Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Republic of Moldova, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Tajikistan.  Under Article 19, a Member State in arrears cannot vote in the General Assembly “if the amount of the arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two years”.

    Considering next a request from the Chairman of the Committee on Conferences (A/59/351), the Assembly decided, according to its rules of procedure, to “explicitly authorize” meetings during the main part of the current session for the following bodies:  the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Working Group on the Financing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Executive Board of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Disarmament Commission, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, and the Executive Board of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).

    The Assembly’s General Committee will convene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 15 September, to consider the Assembly’s organization of work, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items.

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