President of the General Assembly: Remarks on his priorities for the resumed 77th session

Must read

17 January 2023

Excellencies,

Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My motto for this presidency is Solutions Through Solidarity, Sustainability and Science. It was designed to achieve changes in time of unprecedented crises.

Four months into this presidency, and more than seven months still to go, it is time to reflect on our progress.

Are we breaking through?

We can, if we work together on crisis management and transformation.

How do we lead policy development for a more stable, sustainable and just future?

2022 dealt fresh blows to global cooperation: War and suffering. Searing inflation. Food and energy shocks that arrested development and added new layers to record-high debt burdens.

Meanwhile, extreme weather events made water more scarce, unpredictable and polluted for millions around the world, sparking humanitarian emergencies and stoking geopolitical tensions.

The new dynamics of challenges have revealed that there is an obvious need for strengthening the shared responsibility for governance of our global common goods. But also revealed that deepening geopolitical divide is pulling us away from discharging this duty.

Certains disent que lorsque les rivalités géopolitiques croissent, nos chances de réaliser nos responsabilités communes réduisent.

Mais laissez-moi reformuler cette question : Qui peut être tenu responsable du retard que nous avons pris dans la mise en œuvre de nos objectifs communs ? Quelle sont les alternatives transformatrices vers un monde plus pacifique, plus stable, plus durable et plus juste ?

[French translation- Some may say that in time of rising geopolitical rivalry the chances of assuming joint responsibilities could decline.

But let me reword this question: Who will claim responsibility for delaying actions on jointly agreed goals? What will be the alternative of transformation towards a more peaceful, stable, sustainable and just world?]

Let us accept that we are in a new chapter of history.

It is up to us – the General Assembly – to develop transformative solutions and to motivate their implementations in solidarity.

With human rights at their core, our efforts must make our world safer, more just and more sustainable.

In this session, we have less than eight months for that.

Excellencies,

We have to change to be able to transform things.

But we should not change, should not overwrite everything.

Я призываю всех прислушиваться к мудрым словам французского автора Виктора Гюго: «Меняйте свои взгляды, но придерживайтесь своим принципам; меняйте свои листья, но берегите свои корни.» По всей нашей повестке дня, пусть Устав ООН будет нашим путеводным огнём. Мы должны сконцентрировать все наши усилия вокруг Уставa ООН, соблюдения международного права и – в срочном порядке – вокруг целей устойчивого развития.

[Russian translation: Let us follow the wisdom of the French author Victor Hugo: “Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.”

Across our agenda, let’s make sure the UN Charter is our guiding light.

We shall anchor all our efforts in the Charter, in respect for international law – and, urgently, around the Sustainable Development Goals. ]

Following the mandates from Member States, we will have 16 negotiating processes in motion – most of them covering important aspects of transformation.

Our priority is to prepare for the SDG Summit in September – the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda.

By September, we will need honest accounts of what has been achieved and what has not, so we can close the gap between reported national successes and visible global failures.

To get there, we will need a clear vision of what is at stake, what are the timeframes and political responsibilities for making progress.

I urge you to make the most of the High-level Political Forum in July – using it as a stepping-stone to achieve qualitatively better results in September.

I ask you to follow up on the lessons learned from Voluntary National Reviews.

Do not forget: We are also preparing for the Summit of the Future in 2024.

At the same time, the Global Digital Compact – a first of its kind – will aim to ensure that the digital space brings about sustainability and is used responsibly. Since the future will be sustainable or there will be no future. The way leading there through transformation will have to be nature based, digital and socially sensible.

Excellencies,

As you know, a key pillar of my Presidency is to employ science-based evidence to inform Member States on issues of water, climate, food, energy and biodiversity.

I recently proposed the establishment of a scientific mechanism to identify the most effective ways to encourage scientific engagement within the General Assembly.

I aim to advance these discussions.

My Office has organized three scientific briefings on the seventh of February to help us understand the Economics of Water; the connections between Climate, Conflict and Cooperation; and the role of Early Warning for Pandemic Preparedness.

I encourage you all to engage in these dialogues, as well as the discussions on a future cooperative mechanism to monitor the drivers of sustainability.

The goal is to inform negotiations, support decision shaping and improve validation of the implementation of policies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The next big event on water action will be the UN Water Conference in March – the first since 1977, that I hope will bring a new “Paris moment”.

The priority will be to raise the level of ambition to realize SDG 6 – by integrating water and climate policies, moving beyond reactive water management, taking proactive steps and to come out from the water crisis.

In a world of rising uncertainties to create conditions for more predictability. And to go beyond the traditional debate on the difficulties of water cooperation by establishing a global water information system to support regional and local predictability and resilience.

The game-changing ideas that emerged from the stakeholder consultations in October will certainy help us to achieve all that.

Dear Colleagues, I urge your governments to consider these ideas and offer their perspectives at the UN Water Conference.

In March, I will participate in LDC5, the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Doha.  It will be a forum to support the most vulnerable countries in their response to the challenges mentioned before.

I encourage your high-level participation to spur sustainable development in places where international assistance is most needed.

The Midterm Review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in May will allow Member States to assess progress in integrating DRR into policies and investments.

In your negotiations, I ask you to prioritize the issues of disaster-resilient infrastructure, early warning systems, early action capacity and transboundary risk governance as you advance.

All these pivotal events will help us capture the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis and prepare for three high-level meetings related to health: Universal Health Coverage, Pandemic Preparedness and Tuberculosis.

Excellencies,

For developing countries – particularly those in special situations – the pandemic and frequent exposure to natural hazards have led to heavy debt burdens.

Along with economic shocks, a widening digital divide and the shifting dynamics of globalization, these realities have sparked a broad rethink of how to evaluate the well-being of people and planet.

We cannot transform what we cannot measure.

A core priority will be to advance discussions on a methodology for measuring sustainability transformation in a way that integrates human well-being, natural capital and sustainable economic development.

We call this the “Beyond GDP” initiative, foreseen already in the 2030 Agenda but not fully developed yet.

Work underway by the High-Level Panel on the Multi-Dimensional Vulnerability Index offers much promise.

If we stretch this work further – and build upon the sustainability transformation, making the Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index an important part of it – we can design a global tool that makes a significant impact on the SDGs down the line.

Let us make these next steps.

This will position us well for the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in 2024, which aims to bring science and data into the monitoring of the SAMOA Pathway.

For all our aspirations, financing will be key.

Let us set our sights on the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development in September – and on mobilizing the resources we urgently need to ignite transformation.

Without doubt, we have to urgently overhaul our financing logic by taking into account all externalities of our investments. Because what counts along with the volume of resources, are the aggregated social, economic and environmental impacts of our actions.

And, in more general terms, we must reform our whole economic thinking.

Excellencies,

It is on us to design the future of the UN – to agree on solutions that will reinvigorate multilateralism, restore trust and renew the agenda of peace.

There are many opportunities to make the UN more responsive.

For the first time in history, the General Assembly has a standing mandate to hold a debate when a veto is cast in the Security Council.

General Assembly action to address conflict situations is not new – it is enshrined in Article 11 of the Charter.

Yet, the veto initiative has opened the door for greater collaboration and accountability across UN bodies to deliver peace and solutions to the people.

This alone is a game changer. But what tangible outcomes can we expect?

How can the Assembly span the deepening divides in the Security Council to create meaningful, actionable and measurable impact?

In April, I look forward to the plenary debate on the new agenda item on the use of the veto.

I urge you to come with practical ideas on how to utilize this new mandate to find solutions in the General Assembly that can promote peace, sustainability, responsibility and harness stability.

К моему великому сожалению, мы приближаемся ко второму году войны в Украине — войны, которая уже унесла десятки, если не сотни тысячи жизней, принесла неисчислимые человеческие страдания и до основания потрясла нашу многостороннюю систему.

Я призываю вас использовать все каналы для восстановления мира в соответствии с Уставом ООН.

[Russian translation: To my great sorrow, we are nearing the second year of the war in Ukraine – a war that has already cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives, unleashed untold humanitarian suffering and shaken our multilateral system to the core.

I urge you to use all channels to bring back peace – in line with the UN Charter.]

And let the disappointing lessons we have learned inspire the negotiations on Security Council reform, with the goal of creating a better functioning Council.

I promise I will spare no effort to facilitate that.

Distinguished delegates,

يَجِب عَلينا أن نَفعَل المَزيد، لأنني واثِق من أننا نَستَطيع أن نَفْعَل المَزيد، لإيجادْ سَلام عادل ودائم في الشرق الأوسط.

لإنهاء المُعاناةِ في اليَمَنْ وسوريا.

ومُكافَحَةْ الإرهاب في جَميع أنحاء غَرب أفريقيا – وفي أي مَكانٍ آخر يعيثُ فَساداً.

[Arabic: We should also do more, because I am certain we can do more, to find a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

To end the suffering in Yemen and Syria.

And to combat terrorism across West Africa – and wherever else it wreaks havoc.]

Let us keep up efforts to establish a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

If the past year has taught us anything, it is that we need a renewed global commitment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

All these individual and collective endeavours should be based on international law.

In a similar vein, I urge you to take a holistic view of prevention and to focus your energies on erasing inequality.

Efforts to tackle inequalities, implement the SDGs and catalyse sustainable transformation across the globe are all acts of conflict prevention.

I urge you to view them as such.

Excellencies,

Across our agenda, we will elevate the voices of women and young people, focusing on where we can make a difference.

In today’s world, where women’s fundamental rights are so often under threat, we urgently need more female leadership.

In times of crisis, women’s leadership is transformative – and their access to decision-making positions is a critical component of the global transformation we need.

The UN must lead by example.

And I call on Member States to be part of the critical effort to nominate women for leadership roles at the UN, including for PGA.

The outcomes of our 16 negotiating processes will all need to highlight women’s critical contribution to realizing the 2030 Agenda.

The same holds true for the voices of young people, who are among the most affected by unequal access to education, health services and decent work – yet vital actors for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

I intend to engage youth throughout my Presidency – and ensure that they are more involved at the UN than ever before.

I have continued the PGA’s Fellowship started by my predecessor. Six young diplomats from developing countries started in my office yesterday and are seated in the Chamber with us today.

A more effective and responsive United Nations requires engagement with a wide range of stakeholders – from businesses and philanthropic organizations to academia, the scientific community and, importantly, civil society.

Member States and governments shoulder the principal responsibility of taking decisions. But let us remember that governments have no monopoly on wisdom. Success is based – among many other factors – on sharing knowledge and experience.

I have also asked our co-facilitators to consult with diverse stakeholders before the launch of their negotiating processes, with the goal of building a common knowledge base for fruitful deliberations.

My next Civil Society Townhall will focus on the SDG Summit.

Excellencies,

In spite of so many woes, I still believe that 2023 is off to an auspicious start.

We gather in a chamber literally designed to inspire the “realization of the great human dream”.

We must dare to dream it.

In our world of torn trust and massive breakdowns, I am asking you to aim for breakthrough.

Martin Luther King, who was celebrated yesterday, called this the “fierce urgency of now”.

Today, it is on us – this General Assembly – to show that our systems work and that our resolve is unshakable.

I thank you.

About the author

More articles

Latest article