14 September 2005

General Assembly, Following Intense, Last-Minute Talks, Concludes 59th Session with Approval of Draft Outcome Document for World Summit

Outgoing Assembly President Hopes Summit's Decisions Prove to Be Turning Point for Organization

NEW YORK, 13 September (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly this afternoon closed its fifty-ninth session approving the draft outcome document that will be the centrepiece of its 2005 World Summit, which will provide an expected 170 global leaders with what the Secretary-General has called "a once-in-a-generation opportunity" to forge a global consensus on development, security, human rights and United Nations renewal.

The result of intensive, down-to-the-wire negotiations, the document (A/59/L.70), which will be referred to the Summit, would have Heads of State and Government reaffirm "the importance of an effective multilateral system, in accordance with international law", to address multifaceted threats and challenges facing the world today.  It would also have them reaffirm their commitment to eradicate poverty and promote sustained economic growth, sustainable development and global prosperity for all.

"It is hoped that the decisions that will be taken at the Summit will prove to be a decisive turning point for the United Nations", said outgoing Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon), as he wrapped up the 191-member body's work.  With Secretary-General Kofi Annan in attendance, he told the Assembly that the great challenge throughout the negotiations leading up to today's action had been to balance the needs of all Member States, while weighing the needs of humankind.  Delegations had worked tirelessly to identify the needs of developing countries, as well as to consider matters related to trade and access to global markets.

He said that all of the Assembly's work during the session had highlighted the central role of the United Nations.  The world body needed to be continually renewed and revitalized.  Indeed, the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) must be given the means to improve their functioning.  There was a need to strengthen the Office of the Assembly President, and, among other things, a more formal dialogue with civil society and the private sector needed to be established.  He thanked all delegations that had worked so hard on the Summit document and those that had helped make his an "African presidency".

The outcome document would also have the presidents and prime ministers gathering for the Summit reaffirm their faith in the United Nations and the principles of its Charter.  In addition, they would reaffirm that their common fundamental values, including freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance and respect for all human rights were essential to international relations.

The three-day Summit, which opens tomorrow and coincides with the Organization's sixtieth anniversary, has been convened to discuss the status of the Millennium Development Goals, a set of ambitious targets, ranging from halving extreme poverty, to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and to providing universal primary education, all by 2015.  It will also focus on the Secretary-General's proposals on United Nations reform, introduced to the Assembly in March.

In his report "In Larger Freedom", the Secretary-General urged world leaders to take decisive action during the Summit on a "bold but achievable" blueprint for making the United Nations more efficient at tackling global problems, including by establishing new rules for the use of military force, adopting an anti-terrorism treaty, and reforming key United Nations organs and institutions, such as the Security Council and the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights.

Speaking after the approval of the document this afternoon, the representative of Cuba said that the negotiating process had been characterized by a lack of transparency, focusing on the interest of several powerful countries and ignoring the concerns of smaller underdeveloped countries.  For example, the draft had left out language on "unilateral coercive measures", among others.  Such decisions had been taken to satisfy certain delegations, particularly the United States.  With that in mind, Cuba would reserve its opinion on the document.

Cuba believed that several of the items included in the text -- on the responsibility to protect and the establishment of a new Human Rights Council, among others -- ran counter to the concerns of many Member States.  Some of the items appeared to be politically motivated.  Cuba did not support an external auditing of the United Nations oversight system, which might lead to political manipulation.  It was also gravely concerned that the document had omitted a section on disarmament that at least reflected the language of the Millennium Declaration, and concerned about the document's treatment of the issue of trade.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the adoption of the document had been a tremendous achievement and attribute to all the work that had been undertaken by a huge number of delegations.  The Summit would now get off to a good start, and the challenge would be to ensure that the blueprint just adopted would point the way for the Organization to meet modern challenges.

The representative of Venezuela said that his delegation had been surprised and astonished that a 34-page document, which had only been provided in English and at the last minute, had been just adopted.  It was impossible to approve such an important text in that manner.  Even though he was a "quick reader," he had been unable to go through each and every point.  Venezuela had been unable to present proposals or other views.  Such a process ran counter to the very principles of the Organization.

He said it was particularly disconcerting considering the millions and millions of people that would be affected.  Venezuela would, therefore, reserve its position on the document, particularly because of the manner in which the negotiations had come to an end.  That process had turned into a complete denial of democratic principles, and Venezuela hoped it would not become the common practice of the United Nations.

* *** *