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Monday, 20 December 1993

We are about to close this very momentous session.

It has been said that we diplomats are doubly condemned - not only must we make innumerable speeches, but we are also obliged to listen to them. I am sure, therefore, that after a most exhausting session - and I am certainly exhausted after reading out that extensive list - a session at which we have had a surfeit of words, the last thing members would wish to have from me at this stage of our proceedings is another lengthy statement.

I therefore propose to break with tradition and not make an extensive review of our work during the past three months. That may be safely left to a later date. I should like, however, with members' indulgence, to make a few general observations which are intended not so much as an assessment of our performance so far, but, rather, as an attempt to plan a programme of work during the intersessional period.

If I may say so myself, this regular session has been remarkable not only for the reaffirmation of faith in our Organization, but also for the many imaginative proposals aimed at its improvement. All leaders of delegations who addressed the Assembly in plenary session this year were at one in the confidence that, notwithstanding the setbacks faced in the search for peace and development, multilateralism is an ideal worthy of pursuit. It occurred to me as I listened that, if we could only capture their political goodwill and spirit of commitment in all our deliberations, we would be making considerable headway towards achieving agreement in all areas of common concern. Somehow, therefore, we must find the means of making the general debate - and indeed all our operations - more practical and productive. I therefore urge the Working Group which has been set up to consider the revitalization of the General Assembly to give urgent and continuing attention to this task. It cannot be "business as usual" for the future.

Experience has shown that the collective voice of the Assembly is also, especially when raised in unison, a powerful factor for change in international affairs. Often when successful breakthroughs are achieved - as recently occurred in South Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere - we tend to give credit only to those associated with the immediate events, forgetting the many who have worked tirelessly over the years to bring them about. And yet it is undoubtedly the constant reaffirmation of common principles and policies by this Assembly that eventually creates the circumstances which can lead to the settlement of many longstanding and seemingly intractable situations.

Witness the happy coincidence with this particular session of the final steps taken towards establishing a non-racial Government in South Africa, and in Palestine the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian accords. These are but two examples which reflect the incremental nature of our work. The passage of time, therefore, must never be allowed to blind us to the active role which the United Nations plays and can play in creating a new world order.

Clearly, one of our most urgent tasks is the further strengthening of the Organization's system of collective security in order to respond to attacks upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States. With the establishment of an open-ended Working Group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council, we now have the opportunity to enable the Council to deal more effectively with the many challenges which have arisen in the post-cold-war era. It is my intention as President of the Assembly to convene a meeting of the open-ended Working Group towards the end of January 1994, at which time we may have an exchange of views on how our mandate may best be fulfilled. The Secretariat has been requested to prepare a basic working paper, which will serve as a framework for initial discussion. It is to be hoped that we will all approach our task in good faith and with a sense of purpose.

So pressing, however, is the need to strengthen our Organization's machinery in the area of peacemaking, peace-keeping and preventive diplomacy that swift action needs to be taken to put operations in these various fields on a more sound and reliable footing. We must ensure that this vital issue is satisfactorily addressed in the relevant Committees. There is also merit in a full exploration of the potential which Chapter VIII of the Charter contains for greater cooperation between the United Nations and relevant regional organizations, which, with their particular experience and expertise, can effectively bolster the United Nations in the management of many critical situations. As I have mentioned time and again, I would very much wish to see a meeting early next year under United Nations auspices of the heads of these bodies to explore possible areas of cooperation.

On the economic side, I welcome the role given the presidency in the elaboration next year of an agenda for development. The open-ended, broad-based consultations that are foreseen will provide a significant contribution to the process already begun by the Secretary-General. I would think also that they can provide great impetus to the several important development-related conferences scheduled to take place in 1994. Our aim should therefore be to raise public awareness and to mobilize international support to ensure that these deliberations are all conducive to the alleviation, if not the eradication, of the terrible problems of poverty, disease, unemployment and homelessness which now bedevil most of our societies.

Much of the discussion, both in the Assembly and in Committees, clearly reflected the urgent common concerns of all humanity. We considered the worldwide scourge of drug abuse and pledged renewed support for the Global Programme of Action. We reviewed the humanitarian work of the Organization, gave it our endorsement and promised additional support. We affirmed the universal validity of human rights and took measures to begin to translate into practical terms the Declaration of the Vienna Conference, most notably by the establishment of the post of High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It is fair to say, therefore, that the session has been a productive one. Whatever success has been achieved is in great measure due to the readiness shown by all delegations to work in a spirit of cooperation and compromise. It has also been made possible by the dedication, efficiency and professionalism of the staff of the General Assembly Affairs Secretariat, Conference Services - especially the interpreters and translators - and the Meetings Coverage Section of the Department of Public Information. I was at all times the beneficiary of their great expertise. I would thus wish to convey on members' behalf, and more particularly on my own, my profound appreciation of their assistance and to solicit their further cooperation in the year ahead.

I am equally indebted to our Vice-Presidents, who have shared with senior Secretariat officials - particularly Mr. Sukhodrev - and me long hours on the platform. Special mention must also be made of our competent Chairmen, Vice-Chairmen and their Secretariat staff, who worked assiduously to bring our work to a successful conclusion this evening. As President, I count myself fortunate to have had such a magnificent team. My sincere gratitude is also due to the Permanent Representatives of Benin, India, Mexico, Norway, Singapore and the United Republic of Tanzania, who, at my request and on my behalf, conducted necessary consultations on several of the delicate and important issues which were before us and brought them to speedy fruition.

With these brief acknowledgements, it only remains for me now to convey to all members, in this season of peace and goodwill, my very best wishes for a happy and restful holiday. I look forward to working with you again, refreshed and reinvigorated in the new year, to bring even greater success in our joint endeavour to make this United Nations truly a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of our common ends.