Press Conference by President of Sixty-eighth General Assembly

17 September 2013

Press Conference by President of Sixty-eighth General Assembly

17 September 2013
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by President of Sixty-eighth General Assembly


Acknowledging attempts by many of his predecessors to move Security Council reform forward, the new President of the General Assembly said today that he would work for consensus on what that reform should look like.

“There is no shortage of ideas; in fact, there are quite a few on the table,” John W. Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) said at a Headquarters press conference before the opening of the Assembly’s sixty-eighth session this afternoon.  The President said he planned to take up the issue with Member States and to “move the needle” on the issue, adding that he would use his opening speech to reiterate his request that delegations focus on the theme he had set for the session — “The Post-2015 Development Agenda:  Setting the Stage”.

He went on to say that the session would include three high-level dialogues and three thematic debates, which, hopefully, would give delegations a chance to flesh out ideas on issues that should be included in the development agenda.  The dialogues would focus, respectively, on “Women, the Young and Civil Society”; “Human Rights and the Rule of Law”; and “South-South Cooperation and Information and Communications Technology for Development”, he said, emphasizing that they would make a genuine contribution to the post-2015 agenda.  In addition, the thematic debates would cover the role of partnerships, the contribution of peace and stability to development, as well as those of water, sanitation and sustainable energy.

Responding to several questions on Security Council reform, he conceded that whether he could change the minds of powerful Member States was the “$64,000 question”.  It was no secret that every Assembly President hoped to make a difference, but one of the main challenges was that there were several views as to what constituted reform, and consensus was hard to achieve.  He also confirmed that he had spoken to Zahir Tanin ( Afghanistan), Chair of the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform, and hoped he would remain involved.

Asked about lifting a ban on Israel serving on the Council, he said that country was due for candidacy and only required the endorsement of its regional group.

When asked how he would engage with the issues of Palestine and Kashmir, he noted that in both instances, the Assembly and the United Nations as a whole were limited by the decisions of Member States, but he did not believe that that amounted to a failure on the Organization’s part.

Asked about the General Assembly’s response to the crisis in Syria, he said it would be premature to discuss that before the Secretary-General’s briefing, due to take place after the opening of the new session.

Responding to a question about accreditation for the Syrian National Council, he said the Accreditation Committee was the best place to deal with that question if and when it arose.

In response to another question, he said that a high-level meeting on Syria was possible, but it was for Member States to decide.  That would only take place once the session started officially, he added.

On the use of chemical weapons, he said the world was very different today from how it had been in the 1980s, when they had been used against Iran.  Advances in communications technology had increased awareness of such incidents and today’s norms were different to those of 20 or 30 years earlier.  Atrocities must be met with justice, including referral to the International Criminal Court, he emphasized.

When it was suggested that African leaders planned to criticize the International Criminal Court during the general debate as a prelude to a mass exit from the Rome Statute, Mr. Ashe said he was not aware of such a plan, but noted that concerns over the Court’s focus on Africa were valid.

Responding to another question, he stated that President Omer al-Bashir of Sudan was not on the list of speakers for the general debate prepared by the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.

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