Historic Meeting of Assembly Presidents Discusses Ways to Increase Impact of United Nations

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Historic meeting of Assembly Presidents discusses ways to increase impact of United Nations

It was a "unique gathering", said Paul J. F. Lusaka (Zambia), President of the General Assembly. On 6 June, for the first time in United Nations history, a group of 11 General Assembly Presidents met together in New York to pool their collective experience and discuss the current crisis in multilateralism and improvement of Assembly procedures.

"We all come from different backgrounds, from countries with diverse and sometimes opposing ideologies", Mr. Lusaka told his colleagues at the Meeting of Presidents of the General Assembly (6-10 June). "Yet when we were elected to the Presidency of the General Assembly, we endeavoured to detach ourselves from our national feelings in order to become truly international and impartial presiding officers. Animated by the same spirit, we shold join our efforts to seek improvements not only in the procedures of the General Assembly but also in the operation of the United Nations as a whole."

The event, sponsored by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), was held in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the United Nations. In addition to Mr. Lusaka, who also is Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Fortieth Anniversary, the Presidents attending were:

* Amintore Fanfani (1965), former Prime Minister of ITaly and former President of the Italian Senate;

* Corneliu Manescu (1967), former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Romania;

* Stanislaw Trepczynski (1972), former Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland and Chairman of the Polish Committee for Co-operation witht he United Nations Children's Fund;

* Leopoldo Benites (1973), Ambassador of Ecuador to Mexico;

*Abdelaziz Bouteflika (1974), former Minister of Luxembourg and former President of the Commission of European Communities;

* Salim A. Salim (1979), Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania;

* Rudiger von Wechmar (1980), Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Kingdom;

* Ismat T. Kittani (1981), Senior Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Iraq; and

* Imre Hollai (1982), Ambassador of Hungary to Greece and former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Secretary-General's statement: Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar told the Presidents their collective experience spanned an "important portion" of the United Nations 40-year history. In the years since the Organization's founding, he observed, the difficulties inherent in a system of collective security and the "unavoidable imperfections" in its functioning had been magnified rather than overcome, and allowed to negatively influence perceptions of the Organization's potential.

However, the fact that conflict persisted "must not be accepted as evidence that the concept of collective security is unworkable", the Secretary-General cautioned, "but rather as a warning that it must be made to work more effectively".

If confidence in the United Nations was to be sustained and enhanced, then the Organization must overcome its weaknesses in performance, said the Secretary-General. "The United Nations must not lose the commitment of Governments because of an appearance of extravagance or administrative irresponsibility", he stressed, calling for action to facilitate "preventive diplomacy" and more efficient use of resources.

One of the main functions of the Assembly, according to the Secretary-General, is to provide a universal forum in which Governments' attitudes can be harmonized in the interest of resolving world problems. …