8 June 2005

General Assembly President Ping Discusses United Nations Reform During Visit to Austria 

VIENNA, 8 June (UN Information Service) – “Member States are ready to take ambitious decisions on all fronts,” said the President of the fifty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly, Jean Ping (Gabon), on the topic of reforming the United Nations. Mr. Ping, who is currently on a three-day visit to Austria, was addressing a press briefing held in Vienna today.

 The General Assembly is scheduled to hold a high-level plenary meeting in September 2005, to review the implementation of both the major UN conferences and summits in the economic and social fields and the 2000 Millennium Declaration, in particular the Millennium Development Goals. In preparation for the meeting in September, Mr. Ping has recently presented a draft outcome document to the General Assembly, which is currently being reviewed by Member States.

The Secretary-General’s report In Larger Freedom was an important element on which to base the Assembly’s work, said Mr. Ping.  The report had been tabled for Member States’ comment, criticism and suggestions.  The draft document he had presented was the outcome of those comments and suggestions, said Mr. Ping, emphasizing that he had tried to make proposals that were likely to elicit the broadest possible consensus.  On the four issues at the centre of Member States’ discussions, namely development, peace and security, human rights and the rule of law, and strengthening the United Nations, Mr. Ping  noted that these challenges were interrelated, requiring comprehensive and collective action. 

On the issue of development, Mr. Ping noted that it was encouraging that Professor J. Sachs' Millennium Project report had concluded that it was still possible to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals. “All development partners must now actively take on their part of this shared responsibility,” said Mr. Ping, adding that there was general will to increase development assistance. 

On peace and security, Member States were prepared to take collective measures, especially concerning the protection of civilian populations in cases of genocide and other war crimes.  Member States were also prepared to establish the Peacebuilding Commission to maintain peace, said Mr. Ping. In the area of Human Rights, the current draft proposed the creation of a human-rights organ as a subsidiary of the General Assembly, with the possibility of promoting it to becoming a principal organ. The draft outcome document also expressed strong support for the Secretary-General’s strategy to eradicate terrorism in all its forms. The adoption of a general counter-terrorism convention was proposed for no later than the middle of 2006. Still, little consensus had been reached on the specifics of Security Council reform. Mr. Ping said that the issue had been the most contentious, “awakening great passions and fixed attitudes.” He had asked the parties not to rush things, since intensive consultations on the draft document would begin on 21 June, continuing until the second half of July. 

This morning in Vienna, Mr. Ping also opened the forty-eighth session of the United Nations Committee of the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which is currently being held at the Vienna International Centre (VIC). Mr. Ping commended the contribution of the UN’s outer space activities towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, highlighting the importance of space-based applications to water management, telemedicine and disaster mitigation.

Following the press briefing held this morning, Mr. Ping received a statement from the Vice-President Vienna of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO), on behalf of the Vienna-based representatives, expressing their appreciation on the scheduled General Assembly hearings on the current United Nations reform process and on strengthening the role of civil society.

While in Austria, Mr. Ping has met with Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer and Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. He also visited Innsbruck, where he spoke at the University of Innsbruck on “The role of local and regional authorities in global governance”. Mr. Ping will meet with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik during his visit, as well as with the heads of the Vienna-based United Nations agencies. He will address the Vienna Global Agenda Forum at the Vienna Diplomatic Academy on the topic of United Nations reform this evening.

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