UNITED NATIONS, June 14 (APP): The United Nations General Assembly Monday elected Peter Thomson, Fiji’s Ambassador to the U.N., as President of its upcoming 71st session.
Ambassador Thomson narrowly defeated Andreas Mavroyiannis of Cyprus with 94 votes compared to Mavroyiannis’ 90 votes. The post is a largely ceremonial one, though it has a high profile and important procedural functions.
Normally a single candidate for assembly president is elected by consensus without a vote.
Thomson, who will replace current General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark, will begin his tenure in September at the commencement of the 193-member Assembly’s 71st session.
The timing of Thomson’s election means he will oversee the process of searching for a new UN Secretary General to replace Ban Ki-mooon, who is set to finish his second five-year term at the end of the year.
Lykketoft, the current Assembly president, has tried to make the method of choosing a new Secretary General more transparent, with candidates facing question-and-answer sessions in public.
Thomson is the first assembly president to come from the Pacific island states.
“It’s a great moment for the Pacific islands,” Thomson told the General Assembly.
“We bring special perspectives on climate change and on oceans issues. You can expect me to be vocal on these issues.”
Fiji was the first country to ratify the Paris climate deal on global warming.
Thomson also said he would work to try to build momentum on sustainable development.
Congratulating Thomson on his new role, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted that the President-elect brings a broad perspective to his new post, having years of experience in the international arena, both working for the Government of Fiji and in the private sector.
“I am confident that he will seek the views of others to forge consensus. As the new President-elect once said, Progress at the United Nations does not emanate from adversarial corners, but from cooperation by those who meet in the middle,” Ban said.
The Secretary-General noted that during Thomson’s posting as Permanent Representative, he made his mark as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China.
Ban also said that Thomson gained extensive knowledge of the UN development system as Chair of the Executive Board of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
Moreover, the secretary-general highlighted Thomson’s experience as Vice President of the General Assembly from 2010 to 2011.
“In addition to his staunch commitment to development, the new President-elect brings the very valuable perspective of a small island developing State to this post. He is a staunch advocate of both sustainable development and climate action. I count on him to help us carry out both the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change,” the Secretary-General said.
The UN chief also said that Thomson will have an opportunity to build on the “extraordinary progress” seen under the leadership of Lykketoft.
“At this time, I would like to take this opportunity to particularly commend Mr. Lykketoft for his many important initiatives,” the Secretary-General said.
“Already this month, the Assembly has adopted an action-oriented political declaration on ending AIDS. He has convened thematic debates on pressing global challenges and he has travelled to the frontlines of crisis,” he added.
Mr. Ban also noted that Lykketoft has brought new transparency to the selection process for the next Secretary-General.
“This has drawn unprecedented and very welcome attention around the world,” Ban said.
Made up of all the 193 Member States of the UN, the General Assembly provides a forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the UN Charter. It meets in regular session intensively from September to December each year, and thereafter as required.