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Climate Change, Reform, Food Crisis Top UN Agenda

Climate change, UN reform and global food crisis top General Assembly agenda

9 July 2008 - Climate change, reform of the United Nations Security Council and the global food crisis have been top priorities for the General Assembly during its 62nd session, according to its President Srgjan Kerim.

"Climate change poses special threats and places extra demands on a considerable group of countries. For them the threat is far from abstract and remote, but clear and present and may already affect the actual livelihoods of their people," Mr. Kerim told reporters today in New York.

Commenting on the outcome of the Group of Eight (G-8) meeting in Japan, he added that the summit had highlighted the fact that certain countries were especially vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Mr. Kerim said he believed that climate change had become a defining agenda for the General Assembly, citing the fact that it had been the main topic of debate last September and that three further debates had taken place this year.

On the global food crisis, the Assembly President said it was "an immediate challenge with a practical inter-linkage with most of our main priorities: the global food crisis has serious repercussions on reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and it has an impact on financing for development."

Mr. Kerim said he was convening a special session of the Assembly to discuss the food and energy crisis on 18 July.

Referring to Security Council reform, Mr. Kerim said that, after 14 years of discussions, Member States knew quite well the various positions that had been put forward, including the option of an intermediary solution, which would entail agreeing on a set of reforms which would be reviewed after 10 or 15 years.

"It seems, however, that it is difficult to reach agreement for negotiations on this basis," he said. "Under these circumstances, the only way one can imagine is to open negotiations based on all positions expressed so far and to conduct them in various configurations."

He added that "all of us agree that the Security Council does not reflect anymore the realities of the 21st century and thus needs to adapt its working methods and composition."

On other issues, Mr. Kerim said the Assembly's aim was to maintain full, continuous and high-level commitment to reaching the MDGs - the set of anti-poverty targets world leaders pledged to achieve by 2015.

The President said he had proposed having an annual review meeting on the Goals until 2015 and that a leaders meeting was being prepared for September.

Turning to UN management reform, Mr. Kerim called for a unified budget for the whole Organization, saying that it would allow for more transparency, control and efficiency.

Commenting on the Capital Master Plan, for renovating the UN's New York Headquarters, he said that he hoped that the refurbishment of the buildings would also "lead to a renewal of UN management practices as well - hopefully leaving the building may also lead to a clearing of heads and a change in the mindset of officials."

Mr. Kerim concluded his briefing with journalists by saying that in his speeches and recent travels he had been speaking about the need for a new culture of international relations.

"This new culture I believe must rest on the principles of human rights, human security, responsibility to protect, shared responsibilities and sustainable development," he said.

"But let me stress that this new culture is not just about major institutional reforms but really about a change in our mindset: it is about changing our focus from States and security and the well-being of States to also the well-being of people," he added.

ENDS

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