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January 11, 2016 – Marking the 70th anniversary of the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said the body has truly become the “Parliament for all people.”
“The resolutions adopted by the General Assembly may not all be acted on right away. Yet they stand as our common position on the most pressing issues of our times,” Mr. Ban toldUN officials and delegates attending the commemoration.
“These resolutions tell the story of our resolve. They reflect our conviction that the countries of the world coming together can do far more collectively than they ever could alone. Each delegate who speaks, each vote that is cast, every gavel that opens a new meeting adds a little more hope to the world,” said the Secretary-General.
Seventy years ago on 10 January 1946, 51 nations came together at Westminster Central Hall in London, England, and called to order the first meeting of the UN General Assembly. Among the many people who participated in that meeting was Sir Brian Urquhart, a British Government official who went on to serve the United Nations over four decades. He was among the participants in today’s events.
“Sir Brian did more than live history,” the UN chief stressed. “He shaped history. And he recorded that history as a brilliant writer and journalist. We are privileged to have him here today.”
Emphasizing that the General Assembly is more important than ever, the Secretary-General called on the international community to “follow the example of giants like Sir Brian Urquhart – by saving more lives, advancing more progress and promoting ever greater respect for human rights in our world.”
The President of the 193-Member body’s current session, who himself turned 70 on Saturday, began hisaddress by highlighting several features from the first ever meeting, such as it lasting just over one hour with only one decision taken – whom to elect as its first President.
“Interestingly, but not surprisingly, not one of the Permanent Representatives (PR) that day were female – a matter which remains a concern today where only 18 per cent of PRs are female,” stressed Mogens Lykketoft.
“These features and imbalances aside, the first meeting of the General Assembly was without any doubt the beginning of something special,” he added. “It was a major step forward by what is now commonly referred to as the international community.”
Mr. Lykketoft underlined that following a “horrific period” of war, destruction, genocide and nuclear bombings, nations of the world deliberately decided to come together.
“They decided to choose the only genuine path to achieve global peace, security, justice, human rights and social advancement,” he declared. “And in the General Assembly, they created the one true space in which ‘We the peoples’ – voices both big and small – would be heard.”
Mr. Lykketoft recalled that today, with 193 members representing 99.5 per cent of the world’s population, the General Assembly has become the “single most representative, deliberative body in the world.”
In their remarks, both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President Lykketoft highlighted some of the most notable General Assembly achievements in the past year, including agreeing the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement.
“We must also expand the spirit of cooperation of 2015 into every area of work of the General Assembly in 2016,” insisted the President of the 70 year-old Assembly.
Other speakers at today’s commemoration included representatives from Sudan (on behalf of African States), Fiji (on behalf of Asia-Pacific States), Albania (on behalf of Eastern European States), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States), Italy (on behalf of Western European and other States) and the United States (on behalf of the host country).
Following the announcement today by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) that it has carried out a hydrogen bomb test, the head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that if the nuclear test is confirmed, it is in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and is “deeply regrettable.”
“I strongly urge the DPRK to implement fully all relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the IAEA,” said Director General Yukiya Amano in a statement.
He added that the IAEA remains ready to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue “by resuming its nuclear verification activities in the DPRK once a political agreement is reached among countries concerned.”
Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1996, said its experts are “analysing the event to establish more about its nature.”
“If confirmed as a nuclear test, this act constitutes a breach of the universally accepted norm against nuclear testing; a norm that has been respected by 183 countries since 1996,” said the Executive Secretary of the CBTO, Lassina Zerbo, in a statement.
“It is also a grave threat to international peace and security,” he continued. “I urge the DPRK to refrain from further nuclear testing and to join the 183 States Signatories who have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.”
Welcoming the newly signed United Nations-brokered accord for a national unity government in Libya, the Security Council today urged the parties to implement its terms within the 30-day time limit, and called on the world community to provide all necessary aid to defeat terrorist groups.
The agreement to form a Government of National Accord with a Presidency Council, Cabinet, House of Representatives and State Council – signed in Morocco last week – was facilitated by the Secretary-General Special Representative, Martin Kobler, in a bid to end a four-year-long crisis that has left nearly 2.4 million Libyans in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, the Council hailed the formation of the Presidency Council and called on it to work within the 30 days prescribed by the agreement to form a Government of National Accord, and finalize interim security arrangements needed to stabilize the North African country, which has been plagued by factional fighting since the 2011 revolution.
It called on all Member States to fully support Mr. Kobler’s efforts and work with the Libyan authorities and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which he heads, to develop a coordinated package of support to build the capacity of the Government of National Accord.
The resolution voiced concern at the grave humanitarian situation in Libya, called for the full participation of women in all activities relating to the democratic transition, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, and urged Member States to respond generously to humanitarian aid appeals.
It condemned terrorist acts committed in Libya by groups proclaiming allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); condemned any direct or indirect trade, in particular in oil and oil products, modular refineries, chemicals and lubricants with such groups; and called on all Member States to cooperate with the new Government to end such smuggling.
The Council urged Member States to “actively support the new Government in defeating ISIL, groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIL, Ansar Al Sharia, and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida operating in Libya, upon its request.”
It urged coordinated international support tackle the threat posed by unsecured arms and ammunition and their proliferation in undermining regional stability, including through transfer to terrorists.
It also urged Member States to share with the new Government and with each other information on migrant smuggling and human trafficking in Libya’s territorial sea and on the high seas off the coast and to aid migrants and human trafficking victims recovered at sea.