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23 September - Only the United Nations has the breadth of membership, the experience and the presence on the ground to effectively represent the world's people and their interests, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss said today, warning of the risk that the Organization could be overshadowed by other international groups.

“The United Nations has unique legitimacy to play a central role,” Mr. Deiss said in an address to the annual opening of the Assembly's high-level debate. “With its 192 Member States, our General Assembly is a near universal body and reflects the diversity of situations and interests at stake. It is there to promote the rights of every woman and man on our planet.”

This year's theme of the General Debate, held at UN Headquarters in New York, focuses on reaffirming the UN's central role in global governance, and Mr. Deiss told the meeting that there was “a danger that the United Nations could be marginalized as other actors emerge on the international scene.”

Critics charged that the UN was not effective or efficient enough, or suggested that taking action through a forum with more restricted membership might be easier, he said.

“This much should be clear: the point is not deny the role of such entities as the Group of Twenty. The economic and financial crisis has highlighted the importance of a rapid and coordinated response.

“However, there is a vital and pressing need to bridge the efforts of different actors. The mechanisms for communication, consultation and cooperation between those entities and other States must be improved. Only the United Nations and the General Assembly can do so.”

Mr. Deiss said that for the UN to fulfil its role at the centre of global governance, it must be made stronger, more open and more inclusive.

“A close connection must be established between States and the private sector, civil society and regional actors. We must listen to other key actors and interact with them outside this Assembly.”

He added that it was also important to reform the UN, through revitalizing the General Assembly, reforming the Security Council and reviewing the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.

In general, Mr. Deiss noted, the world's most complex challenges will only be solved when there is “a global partnership” where all stakeholders can have a voice in key decisions.

“Poverty, conflicts, global warming, the economic and financial crisis, migration, pandemics, terrorism, international crime and a whole range of other issues have consequences that cannot be managed at an individual level and that humankind can address only through common global strategies.”