End-of-Term Press Conference by President of General Assembly

14 September 2012

End-of-Term Press Conference by President of General Assembly

14 September 2012
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

End-of-Term Press Conference by President of General Assembly


The General Assembly’s journey over the past 12 months had been momentous, historic and challenging, as Member States stepped up to address conflicts, significant political developments and other pressing global issues of the day, General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser ( Qatar) said today, just days before handing over to his successor on Tuesday.

Reflecting on the end of his term at the helm of the world body, he said at a Headquarters press conference that the Assembly had worked hard to deal with issues on its agenda promptly and responsibly, in a strong, active and truly responsive fashion.  Sharing highlights from his presidency, he began with the “Arab Awakening”, noting that the Assembly had worked to support the legitimate aspirations of the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa.

On Syria, he said Member States had chosen “not to be silent, but active and responsive”, having held several timely meetings in support of efforts to help the Syrian people resolve the “appalling crisis” in their country.  The Assembly had urged the Syrian Government to end the killing of its own citizens immediately, in resolutions condemning its continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Member States remained deeply concerned, said the President, adding that he was certain they would support his successor, Vuk Jeremić of Serbia, in bringing a lasting solution to the crisis.

Touching on other areas of focus during the sixty-sixth session, he said mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes had been central to the Assembly’s work, culminating in yesterday’s adoption of resolution A/66/291.  At the same time, the Assembly had “pushed hard” to re-energize efforts towards the Organization’s reform and revitalization.

Concerning Security Council reform, he noted that the eighth round of intergovernmental negotiations had taken place during his presidency, a process acknowledged by Member States as having generated new momentum and engagement.  Just yesterday, the Assembly had adopted an oral decision reaffirming the determination of Member States to build on that progress.  Collaboration with the Secretary-General had been another hallmark of his presidency, the President said, recalling that they had visited Libya and Somalia together.

Also under his presidency, he continued, sustainable development and global prosperity had ranked high on the agenda, as the Assembly gave its full support to the success of the Rio+20 Summit.  For the first time, the Assembly had discussed the state of the world economy, he said, recalling that his efforts had resulted in the participation of key players such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.  Additionally, the Assembly had promoted the work of UN-Women and lent support to the United Nations Trust Fund to end gender-based violence.

“We have achieved quite a lot, but I am mindful of the fact that there is only that much that anyone can do in a one-year term,” he said, thanking Member States and the media for their support.  He also expressed special thanks and deep appreciation to his Spokesperson, Nihal Saad, and his Communications Adviser, Ben Malor, for their “exceptional and outstanding” work.

Asked whether he thought the world and the United Nations were better off now than one year ago, the President said he could not judge his own work, but if it was up to him, he would say “good things”, adding that he was satisfied with what had been achieved.  The Assembly’s role had been enhanced, he said, citing its engagement with Syria — “a sensitive political issue” — due to the Security Council’s inability “to react for some reason that you know”.  Still, as everyone knew, the political atmosphere in the Middle East, in Syria, was “a difficult and complicated case”.  It was not up to Lakhdar Brahimi to bring peace, but to the Syrian authorities, he said, wondering aloud if they were serious or ready.  Hopefully the Council would press for an end to the violence, as hundreds of people were dying for no reason other than their quest for freedom and dignity.

Replying to questions about the waves of protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, he pointed out that the Assembly had adopted a draft resolution on mediation yesterday, and that today, he had convened a high-level meeting on the culture of peace.  Prior to yesterday’s action, he had organized an hour-long discussion on forgiveness, and had shown a documentary film illustrating a number of difficult cases.  As for the killing of United States diplomats in Libya, he said the film that had sparked that event had served only to promote disaster, hatred and revenge.  He said he had issued statements deploring and condemning the attacks on the United States Embassy in Libya, as well as the protests in Egypt.  Such acts of hatred and xenophobia contravened United Nations Charter principles and could shake international instability.

In response to a question about suggestions that he had not been impartial during the Syrian crisis, he said he knew that he had been “accused of carrying an agenda”.  He said he would not comment on his accusers except to say he was “very neutral on every issue […] you name it — political, development, reform”.  The Assembly had become engaged with a highly political issue, beginning with Libya, when the National Transitional Council had not been recognized as that country’s official representative, thereby being unable to enter United Nations premises.  At the same time, Muammar Qadhafi’s representatives had not been able to come to the United Nations because the United States would not give them visas.  “So the GA was right in the middle.”  He said he had “changed” the Credentials Committee, and on 16 September 2011, the Assembly had submitted a resolution essentially giving a seat to National Transitional Council representatives and “eliminating” the Qadhafi regime’s place.

Concerning human rights violations in Syria, he recalled his invitation to Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to brief the Assembly, which had led to the adoption of a draft resolution in support of the Arab League initiative.  Saying that he had convened that meeting because he had a different agenda simply was “not true”, he emphasized.

Elaborating on Security Council reform in response to another question, he said he had organized eight rounds of intergovernmental meetings on that “sensitive and complicated issue”, resulting yesterday in the Assembly’s adoption of an oral decision reaffirming the world body’s central role on the “question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council”.  He had worked very hard on that issue, contributing “a lot” upon which the next President could build.

Asked what big issues would be on world leaders’ plate during the upcoming general debate, he said the next session would be very busy and challenging.  There were many important issues on the agenda, from sustainable development and climate change, to food security and the global financial crisis.  Referring again to his having convened a high-level meeting on the state of the world economy, he noted that, before his intervention, including with the European Union delegation, representatives had not wanted the Assembly to become involved, but he had insisted that it was a global issue.  “When you sneeze, we get sick in Qatar,” he said today.  Political crises would, of course, remain on the agenda.

He also stressed the importance of the Assembly President’s relationship with the Secretary-General, and of reaching out to Member States, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the media.  Transparency was very important, he added.

Returning to the need to promote education and dialogue among peoples and religions, he asked:  “Why insult religions and peoples?  What do you get?  You get revenge; that was human nature, here, there and everywhere.”  He called for the promotion of a culture of peace instead.

The President concluded by describing Mr. Jeremić as a qualified diplomat and former Foreign Minister “full of ambitions”.  He said he believed there would be a continuation of the work he had undertaken, and that Mr. Jeremić had indicated a wish to build on the theme of mediation.  “We’ll see the work continuing.  That is a good sign,” he added.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.