UNGA chair says world organization "must change"

BOSTON -- President of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremić has said that the United Nations "must change."

(FoNet, file)
(FoNet, file)

One of the ways to contribute to this is organizing public debates on sensitive issues of importance to contemporary relations in the world, Serbia's former foreign minister stated during a visit to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

He noted that the Serbian presidency of the UNGA has been doing this in the face of disapproval and pressures coming from "some capitals."

As one of the most successful students in the class of 2003 at the prestigious American university, Jeremić was the guest of honor at the 10th class reunion.

Dean David Ellwood acted as a moderator in an hour-long conversation between Jeremić and members of the Harvard academic community.

Introducing Jeremić, Ellwood said he was an active participant in the democratic changes in Serbia in the late 1990s and is one of the rare UNGA presidents elected in a direct secret vote by UN member countries.

"I decided to run for the post when few people expected it," said Jeremić.

He said the United States actively campaigned against him, but today he has good cooperation with the country's representatives.

Talking about changes at the UN, Jeremić said he was advised to steer clear of the topic.

"But I studied the rules carefully and determined that a UNGA president practically cannot be recalled, so I decided to do as my conscience commands," Jeremić explained to applause from the students.

Asked what he is most proud of from his term as Serbia's foreign minister between 2007 and 2012, Jeremić said it was a conscious choice of the Serbian government to use only legal and diplomatic means in the uncompromising fight against Kosovo's unilaterally declared independence.

"We maintained peace and continued the European process," said Jeremić.

Among his successes as president of the UNGA, he listed a public debate on the work of international criminal tribunals, the biggest in UN history, which took place in April.

Another important debate was the one on climate change, and believe it or not, the issue was never before discussed as part of a thematic debate at the UN, said Jeremić.

He also said that after the direct and secret vote for the UNGA president last year, it is difficult to imagine anyone securing the office without a vote.

Jeremić was also asked about NATO's intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, which he called a horrible "mistake."

The issue of Kosovo's status remains unresolved, he said, adding the issue does not have a lot in common with Syria, which he sees as possibly the most difficult issue on the world scene in recent decades.

The students were also interested in his opinion about the United States' future role in the global arena, and Jeremić said the country remains the most powerful player on the international scene.

"The Unites States can still destroy anyone in the world. But the question is, can America solve an international problem, and its recent track record has not been the greatest," said Jeremić.

"This shows the Unites States cannot act alone and its future role will depend on the alliances it forms," he concluded.