9 June 2006

General Assembly Elects Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain as President of Sixty-First Session

Chairpersons of Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth Committees Elected in Separate Meetings

NEW YORK, 8 June (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly this morning elected, by acclamation, Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain as the President of its sixty-first session, which is scheduled to begin on 12 September.  Also elected in separate meetings today were the Chairpersons and other officers of the Assembly's Second, Third, Fourth and Sixth Committees.

Following her election, Ms. Al Khalifa said that she would continue on the path that the Presidents of previous sessions had paved.  In particular, she noted the great efforts of the current President, Jan Eliasson, to advance United Nations reform, and his achievements in international peace and security, as well as human rights.  She also paid tribute to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, saluting his continuous work with Member States to eliminate fear, want and disease and to lay the foundations for reforming the Organization.

Among the sixtieth session's noteworthy achievements, she listed the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, the creation of the Human Rights Council and the strengthening of the Central Emergency Response Fund.  Today, it was imperative to identify any shortcomings and develop a system based on effective multilateralism that could accomplish tangible results and serve common interests in accordance with the Charter.  Indeed, the Organization needed continuous efforts from all Member States to revitalize its main organs.  Reforming the United Nations was vital to addressing new global challenges.

"What inspires me is a deep feeling of pain caused by the tragedies all over the world, on both the human and environmental levels", she said.  On the human level, it was the suffering due to political disputes, wars, terrorism, poverty and malnutrition.  On the environmental, it was pollution, global warming, the depletion of natural resources and the extinction of living species.  She had also witnessed numerous instances where women were harshly treated.  Their suffering drove her to find suitable solutions to alleviate their pain and uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter, which emphasized full respect for human rights.

She also emphasized the need to develop a common understanding.  "It is inconceivable how information technology has advanced to such an incredible degree, yet we still find communicating amongst each other so difficult!" she said.  Indeed, the Internet, over the last few years, had made real the notion of the "universal library", which a few decades ago had been merely a figment of the imagination of the prominent Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges.  That was a testament to the role that information technology could play in bringing humankind closer together.

"The future of coming generations depends on the way we address contemporary problems", she said.  "We should work towards preserving humanitarianism and ensuring that our planet is a safer and more suitable place to live in."  Therefore, it was critical to reach a comprehensive and practical strategy to combat one of the greatest evils of our time:  terrorism.  But was it possible without addressing the problems of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and extremism in all its forms?  It was time to focus on the importance of education in nurturing future generations and on fostering educational curricula that promoted openness, critical thinking and creativity.

"We are aware that millions of people are living with hunger, disease, illiteracy, war and displacement, both internally and internationally, and we should not lose hope, for I believe that great hope can arise from the most challenging circumstances", she said in conclusion.  She pledged her desire to work with Member States during the next session to achieve the objectives outlined in the Charter within a framework of transparency and respect for all views and positions.

Outgoing President Jan Eliasson (Sweden) congratulated Ms. Al Khalifa, saying that her election to the Presidency of the Assembly was a recognition of her impressive record of achievements, as well as of the strong commitment of Bahrain to the principles and purposes of the United Nations.  Ms. Al Khalifa brought a long and distinguished legal career, at both the national and international level, to the Organization.  She was one of the first of two women lawyers to practice law in Bahrain.  She had held many senior positions with leading legal organizations of the world, including with the International Bar Association.  She was currently the Legal Adviser to the Royal Court in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Her pioneering role in the legal sphere had been coupled more recently with a prestigious diplomatic assignment, he continued.  She had served successfully as Bahrain's Ambassador to France, as well as a permanent delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from 2000 to 2004.  Throughout her professional life, Ms. Al Khalifa had been a champion of women's rights in her society and in the court system.

Here at the United Nations, he added, her election was a significant contribution to gender equality within the Organization.  She would become only the third female President of the Assembly and the first one since the twenty-fourth General Assembly session in 1969.  He expressed his readiness to support her in her preparations and ensure a smooth transition between the two Presidencies.

The representatives of Zimbabwe, Turkey, Albania, Cuba, Ireland and Algeria took the floor on behalf of their regional groups, congratulating the President-elect on her election and expressing appreciation to President Eliasson for his work.

The Assembly also elected 21 Vice-Presidents for the next session:  Bhutan, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, France, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Kuwait, Libya, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Nigeria, Philippines, Russian Federation, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States and Zimbabwe.

Election of Committee Officers

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) elected Tiina Intelmann of Estonia as Chairperson, and Prayono Atiyanto of Indonesia, Aboubacar Sadikh Barry of Senegal, and Benedito Fonseca Filho of Brazil as Vice-Chairpersons.  The election of a Rapporteur was postponed to a subsequent meeting, owing to ongoing consultations among the members of the Western European and Other States Group.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) elected Hamid Al Bayati of Iraq as its Chairman.  Jorge Ballesteros of Costa Rica, Lamin Faati of the Gambia and Sergei A. Rachkov of Belarus were elected to serve as Vice-Chairmen, and Elena Molaroni of San Marino as Rapporteur.

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) elected Madhu Raman Acharya of Nepal as its Chairman.  Larbi Djacta of Algeria and Monica Bolanos Perez of Guatemala were elected as Vice-Chairpersons, and Rana Salayeva of Azerbaijan as Rapporteur.  The election of an additional Vice-Chairperson to be nominated by the Group of Western European and Other States would be taken up at a later date.

The Sixth Committee (Legal) elected Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo of Mexico as its Chairman.  It elected Sivagurunathan Ganeson of Malaysia, Theodor Casmin Onisii of Romania and Stefan Barriga of Liechtenstein as Vice-Chairmen, and Mamadou Moustapha Loum of Senegal as Rapporteur.

The election of the officers of the First (Disarmament and International Security) and Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committees would take place at a later date.

* *** *