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Assessing 66th Session, UNGA President Highlights Disaster Readiness, Sustainable Development

31 December 2011: Closing the main part of the 66th UN General Assembly (UNGA), President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser outlined significant developments during his tenure. At a press conference on 22 December, he described the preceding three months as “among the most exciting of my two-decade experience of diplomatic service." He highlighted upcoming events and called for support for the Assembly's work in 2012, which will include disaster readiness and sustainable development.

Al-Nasser highlighted the first-ever High-level Meeting on “Addressing Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication,” held on the margins of the General Debate in September 2011. World leaders had stressed that desertification not only harms people but also our development and our future, and that addressing desertification is an issue of high priority, he said.

He also noted substantial progress made in preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), and said a retreat he convened on 17-18 December 2011, titled “Paving the way for a successful Rio+20,” had aimed to encourage broader agreement on the Conference's outcome.

Other key events on sustainable development included: the agreements at the Durban Climate Change Conference to work towards a new global treaty; dialogues between the UNGA and the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP); the briefing on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL); an informal interactive briefing in preparation for consideration of the Secretary-General's annual report on accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) post-2015; and the Global South-South Development Expo.

Al-Nasser also called attention to upcoming key events and issues in 2012, along the lines of the four thematic pillars of his tenure. Among these pillars is “Improving disaster prevention and response,” on which he will organize a thematic debate in Spring 2012. He said the debate's outcomes are intended to feed into the UNCSD. Also among his key pillars is “Sustainable development and global prosperity,” and he noted a “development dialogue” on the MDGs to be held in February or March 2012, as well as an informal thematic debate on preparations for Rio+20.

In his end-of-year message on 31 December, Al-Nasser said 2011's developments had reinforced the relevance of these pillars, and the international community will need to intensify efforts to improve disaster preparedness and response, in particular by implementing policies and measures to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and address or prevent man-made catastrophes. On the sustainability pillar, he said the exercise of global collective will for finding solutions to development challenges was demonstrated in the previous few days in the agreement that States reached over the UN biennial budget. He called on States to support the Assembly's renewed efforts in these areas in 2012. [PGA Remarks at Press Conference] [Letter to Member States] [PGA Remarks on Closing of Session] [UN Press Release, 22 December] [UN Press Release, 23 December] [End of Year Message]