UN General Assembly debate ends on reform note


New York : The United Nations General Assembly’s political debate came to a close with its president expressing satisfaction that governments gave support to UN reform to make the body more efficient and accountable.

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The assembly president, Srgjan Kerim, the former foreign minister of Macedonia, Wednesday said nearly 100 heads of state took part in the political debate in the 62nd annual session of the 192-nation assembly, which opened on Sep 18.

“There is overall agreement that we could make faster progress on all issues, if our multilateral institutions better reflect contemporary realities, which is to underline the need for better progress on UN reform,” Kerim said.

He said the UN secretariat must be more effective, efficient and accountable and resources across the UN system must be mobilised and delivered more coherently on the ground.

The session began with special one-day sessions on the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and a summit on climate change that saw the participation of nearly all UN members.

The last speaker Wednesday was Sierra Leone, whose ambassador, Joe Pemagbi, said the reform programme had scored “some major successes”, but reform of the UN Security Council remains “elusive”.

UN members wanted to enlarge the current 15-nation council to more than 20 members representing all nations, but negotiations deadlocked on the number of new seats.

“That is why Sierra Leone will never relent in her support for the reform process of the UN to enable it to respond appropriately to its numerous and diverse and ever increasing challenges,” Pemagbi said.

Ambassador Philip Sealy of Trinidad and Tobago, who spoke before Pemagbi, said his small Caribbean island nation is worried not only about global warming, but also about the preservation of the marine environment of the Caribbean Sea, which provides important resources for countries in the region.

Kerim summed up the discussions ranging from climate change to terrorism and human rights in the assembly by saying that the General Assembly remains the only forum where many challenges facing the world can be tackled comprehensively.

“It is therefore incumbent upon us to revitalise this house by taking the necessary decisions on the priorities and challenges that have been outlined” during the political debate, Kerim said.

He said he had suggested at the start of the political debate that the General Assembly becomes more interactive.

“I am grateful that you delivered,” Kerim said.

The heads of states that took part in the debate included US President George W. Bush, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who were among those who made more headlines.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who caused a controversy last year by calling Bush the devil in his address to the body, chose not to attend, but Ahmadinejad visited him in Caracas to solidify their alliance against Bush.

The 62nd assembly session, which runs until next September, will spend the following months discussing the reform process, human rights and UN programmes like humanitarian assistance and development.