GA President elect on environmental governance

Tue, 15/06/10

The General Assembly President elect for the sixty-fifth session today named ‘environmental governance’ in his list of priorities for his tenure. The full details of the press conference are below:

At a Headquarters press conference today, the General Assembly President elect for the sixty-fifth session, Joseph Deiss ( Switzerland), said that the priorities of his tenure would be global and environmental governance, human rights, the environment and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Joined by Paul Seger, Permanent Representative of Switzerland, and Micheline Calmy-Rey, Federal Counsellor and Foreign Minister of the Swiss Confederation, he said “progress must be made and results achieved on fundamental issues for the progress of all humanity”.  A key aspect of the upcoming session would be to further promote the effectiveness and credibility of the Assembly’s work.  As Switzerland had been given the honour to act as President, he noted that his country planned to share its experience with regard to working methods — particularly its tradition of consensus and dialogue.

The Millennium Development Goals would most certainly be on the agenda, said Mr. Deiss, who was elected by acclamation today.  The upcoming summit in October was an “important moment” for both him and his country, in light of previous efforts made by the Assembly.

Another key item on the agenda would be global governance, with a particular focus on the environmental element.  The main problems of the day were global in nature and, therefore, must be “solved through global solutions”, he stressed.  In that regard, it was necessary that the General Assembly host debates on such issues and work to establish connections with new groups, including the Group of 20.

Additionally, increased efforts should be made towards the achievement of a green economy — a topic closely linked to issues such as the environment, global warming, forests and water, among others.  The current economic crisis undermined all such efforts; however, he expressed hope that a global economy much more respectful of the environment could be realized.

Struck by the importance placed upon the idea of friendship within the United Nations Charter, Mr. Deiss invited members of the Assembly to focus on it in order to facilitate future debates, while noting that the concept of friendship among countries “extended much further than simply defending the interests of each country”.

Ms. Calmy-Rey congratulated Mr. Deiss on his election to the Presidency, citing it as “recognition of the high quality of his candidacy”.  It also represented a significant milestone for Switzerland, serving as recognition of its commitment to multilateralism and its active contribution to the values and objectives of the United Nations, she said.  In the eight years since becoming a Member State, her country had worked to make the organization more efficient in fostering peace and promoting sustainable development, and would continue to do so in future.

Asked about his position on issues concerning the Middle East and Iran, Mr. Deiss said that discussion and action with regard to such political issues was reserved for the Security Council.  However, in keeping with the specific duties of the Assembly, he planned to ensure that it would be the preeminent platform for debates on global issues.  Further, his tenure would be conducted in the spirit of close cooperation with and loyalty to the Secretary-General, and with respect to United Nations rules.

Responding to a question about his other priorities, he noted that reform of both the General Assembly and Security Council sought to revitalize each entity.  Beyond governance — which included relationships with other groups, individuals and organizations — issues such as poverty, food and food security, climate change and biodiversity should be addressed.

Given the variety of topics that could be covered during his tenure, he said that he would attempt to address a fair amount, but would not “run in all directions”.

When asked how he intended to push towards Security Council reform, he said that it was the responsibility of Member States to develop solutions.  In his capacity, he would activate debates on the issue and search for possible avenues for consensus, helping to push the members of the Assembly in the right direction.

Addressing a question on his plans to build bridges, he said that it was important to note that the General Assembly was the only organ that included all Member States.  He underscored the need for certain groups of countries to conduct initial discussions within a smaller framework to test and advance a particular issue, saying that reaching a consensus among several countries was often very difficult.  Further, bridges were needed between the various United Nations bodies, all of which were seeking solutions to the same problems, yet through different vantage points.

Asked if he had envisioned he would be elected General Assembly President while spearheading the campaign for Switzerland to become full Member of the United Nations in 2002, he said his election was primarily recognition of his country’s efforts.  He recalled a conversation he had with former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Anan, in which he described his goal to have Switzerland become a Member State.  On 10 September 2002 — the day his goal was realized — Switzerland received a warm and overwhelming welcome.  That day was “one of the brightest days in my career as a Minister”.

Looking ahead, Mr. Deiss hoped to not only help the General Assembly complete its work efficiently, but also to bring the United Nations closer to the Swiss people by shedding light on what the Organization could achieve.  When Switzerland’s candidacy was first announced, he was asked how the country could benefit from the candidacy.  In turn, he responded that it must first be asked what Switzerland could bring to the United Nations.

Categories: Leadership