UNITED NATIONS (June 20) – The U.N. secretary-general has generously lauded the election of Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador John Ashe as president of the General Assembly. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled working together with Ashe on a number of important issues over the years. “He shares my passion for sustainable development–and my concern about the problem of climate change. He demonstrated his commitment by serving on the governing bodies of major U.N. environmental agreements,” Ki-moon said.

In addition to Ashe’s co-chairmanship of the Bureau for the Preparatory Process of the Rio+20 Conference, held a year ago, he noted that Ashe also gained valuable experience as chairman of the Fifth (Budget) Committee of the U.N. “This is one of the toughest jobs at the United Nations-and it prepares you to work long hours.” As chairman of the Group of 77 developing countries in New York, he added that Ashe led “an influential and diverse coalition of states.”

In addition, representing Antigua and Barbuda, Ashe can “help the Assembly make an important contribution to next year’s International Conference on Small Island Developing States,” which will influence concerted international actions to benefit the Caribbean and other oceanic regions. The secretary-general lavished praise on Ashe’s “more than impressive experience and educational credentials. Above all, our new general assembly president is a trusted partner with personal integrity. This is essential in the world of diplomacy, where one’s word is the most valuable currency.”

Describing Ashe’s personal appeal, Ki-moon said: “He has a very strong presence. Some even call it a ‘force field.’ We see this most clearly when diplomats gravitate toward Ambassador Ashe to seek a consensus. He is known as the go-to person when discussions break down. This happened in 2002, when he led negotiations on contentious issues at the World Summit for Social Development and, more recently, when he co-chaired Rio+20 negotiations.”The president of the U.N.’s 68th General Assembly, he observed, “has a quiet confidence. His approach is gentle, but direct. It works. He is always ready to engage with colleagues for the greater goals of helping the United Nations to transform our world.”

The secretary-general said Ashe will preside over one of the Assembly’s most important sessions, “when we push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and begin shaping our global vision for the post-2015 future.”