Remarks by Csaba Kőrösi, President of the 77th session of the General Assembly, at the 100th plenary meeting: Closing of the 77th Session of the General Assembly

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5 September 2023

Mr. President-elect,

Madame Deputy Secretary-General,

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,

Dear colleagues and friends,

I am proud to stand before you for the last meeting of the 77th session of the General Assembly.

I want to leave you with five main thoughts.

The first is that, despite geopolitical rivalries, our survival depends on our cooperation.

We have ample scientific evidence that we are well in the Anthropocene era – an age marked by humans’ decisive impact on the planet.

At the beginning of my term, I invited you to view our work through the lenses of crisis management and the sustainability transformation.

Such an approach could allow us to counter the global crises of our own making.

Geopolitical rivalries are part of the reality, but let us not forget, they block many prospects of the necessary solutions and urgent cooperation.

Shifting our focus away from sustainability transformation, geopolitical or ideological competition usually pursues more narrow, often short-term interests.

Yet, at the Water Conference in March, you demonstrated that it is possible to overcome long-standing divides.

We have already shown that we can reestablish trust and build on areas of common ground.

This brings me to my second message that we are in a race against time.

From climate change and biodiversity loss to education and gender equality – our chance to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is slipping away.

Let’s put money where our promises are. For the benefit of each and every Member State.

Are we ready to translate the necessary actions for sustainability transformation into key budgeting priorities? Back at home and in the international organizations?

Supporting sustainable development with appropriate regulations, financing, capacity building and verification is one of our most urgent tasks.

What is immediately needed now is implementation of what we promised to deliver to our 8 billion shareholders.

We are starting to value what counts.

And we are beginning to understand that we should go “beyond GDP” to understand the real impacts and the full cost of our actions.

Including all positive and negative side effects.

Intended and unintended ones alike.

And it means we are starting to place our trust in science and data.

The next eight to ten years will be crucial for our shared perspectives.

And let us make it clear: multilateralism is our only option to tackle the many crises of the world.

My third message is that we are all responsible for our actions and inactions.

Our responsibilities must always be regarded as important as our rights.

The three pillars of the United Nations are peace and security, development, and human rights.

The public sees these as our responsibilities. Have we lived up to them?

Can we look at the conflicts around the world and say we are upholding the UN Charter?

The war in Ukraine – along with other 51 armed conflicts – must end, in line with the UN Charter and international law.

Today I reiterate my call on all of you to end nuclear proliferation and nuclear armament.

The UN Charter empowers the General Assembly to consider principles governing disarmament and arms control.

I encourage the Assembly to reflect on this point.

In December, 75 years will have passed since the General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Isn’t this anniversary a reminder that the security of our future will depend on how we embrace our responsibilities?

Just a year ago, the General Assembly adopted a historic resolution declaring access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment a universal human right.

But it should be made clear who is responsible for the implementation.

In recent months, you agreed to seek the opinion of the International Court of Justice on countries’ obligations to address climate change.

We are only starting to understand and unpack what rights and responsibilities will mean in the next stage of our Anthropocene era.

Increasingly, it is our young people, who remind us when we fail to act.

They will hold us accountable for our inactions.

My fourth message is that only integrated solutions are ‘future-proof’.

They are forward-looking and able to absorb upcoming shocks.

The multilateral system demands cooperation on a global scale – between countries and regions but also across disciplines and fields.

With a well-developed methodology bringing together data and trends from these fields.

From addressing climate change and cyber-crime, to respecting human rights online and the use of artificial intelligence, we must unite around a holistic approach.

Outside this Hall, people see one UN and expect us to act together to support meaningful change in their lives.

Our focus this session has been on finding integrated solutions that have concrete impact for your citizens.

We know that stand-alone processes will only deliver stand-alone results.

Integrated solutions, again, mean data, verification and funding.

Beyond the upcoming SDG Summit, it will be up to you, Member States, to bring the sustainability transformation to life.

For the survival of humanity, are you willing to finance it?

In each and every country, by reprioritizing spending, and strengthening international cooperation on sustainability?

Will you do more to verify what you are implementing?

Can you break out of artificial silos in favor of comprehensive solutions?

If so, the time to redefine our priorities and actions is now.

I encourage you to keep the focus on integrated solutions if you want to have the best results for your resources, and if you want to change the reality.

My fifth message is that we must urgently reform the UN in ways that correspond with the challenges of our day.

The world’s first passenger jet aircraft carried 36 passengers in 1952. That was a breakthrough in technological development. That doesn’t mean that we can use it today to take us to Mars.

Times are evolving, and this Organization must evolve with them.

We must reform how the General Assembly functions.

The same is true for the Security Council.

I acknowledge that the UN Charter does not make this task easy.

But even then, until we change it, our task is to apply it.

This means avoiding its selective application on conflict management, mass atrocities, genocide and other war crimes.

If we do not, the Security Council will be more of a problem than a solution to our world’s instability.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails,” as they say.

Let us adjust our own sails here in the General Assembly.

These questions speak to the need for integration and reform throughout the UN, to repair trust within – and in – our organization.

And to preserve its relevance.

Let us admit that a policymaking body with more than 180 priorities has no strategic direction.

Inherited and repetitive debates occupy too much of our time.

Yes, they are important. But should they prevent us from seeking gamechangers for our current and new situations on the horizon?

We cannot miss the forest through the trees.

Reinforcing old positions of ancient debates invariably means that we will lose sight of current challenges.

Who will suffer the most? The most vulnerable countries and communities, there is no doubt about it.

Please, keep this in mind when you sacrifice collaboration and try turning it into a zero-sum game.

We cannot expect different results through rigid reiterations of positions, by holding on to “agreed language”, “longstanding” as they may be.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me wrap up.

There will always be political rivalries.

This does not mean that we have to fall into the zero-sum trap, in which one country’s every gain is another country’s loss.

Smart decision-making, starting with consensus on key resolutions here in the General Assembly Hall, is the push needed for many actors in the world to embrace upcoming challenges.

We must set the tone.

And to create a more effective sustainable transformation that is mutually beneficial for all of us.

This must be done now because we are racing against time.

There is no plan B, no planet B, as we hear often.

Global finance isn’t yet working to help us with climate change.

Nor to protect the most vulnerable.

Which is why we have to act with urgency, to protect our joint survival.

Our actions and inactions invoke the issue of responsibility.

To the planet, and to each other.

That is accountability.

When international law or the UN Charter is violated, and we do nothing – we are hiding from our common responsibility, we are all eroding our multilateral system.

And we are deceiving the people we represent.

This omission brings into question our relevance, our purpose.

That is why this great Organization needs to reform in line with the challenges of today and tomorrow.

We need to be agile.

How do we organize this reform?

Among others, through science.

That is my core message to you today, as it has been since I stood in this same hall one year ago.

Science is one of the most important shapers of our understanding of reality upon which basic decisions should be made.

Science is not omnipotent but provides objective evidence and proven knowledge.

It is the tool to help us leverage our cooperation and guide our decision-making.

It is not against anyone’s national or cultural heritage.

It is the way for us to reflect the heritage in our decisions.

We’ve let science in this term, let’s not push it out in the next ones.

Let me take a moment now to say thank you.

To you, the Member States, I want to remind you that the outcomes of your negotiations, meetings, informal and thematic events, are our solutions to the world’s problems.

The General Assembly resolutions are your shared blueprint, your joint legacy.

This term, I appointed thirty co-facilitators and co-chairs for the different negotiation processes.

On behalf of all of you I thank them and their teams for their dedication and determination throughout the last year.

Thank you for this cooperation.

Let me express my deep gratitude to the Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, the Chairs of the Main Committees.

I am grateful for the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General for their trust, frank and impact-oriented cooperation.

I also thank the colleagues at the Secretariat, especially at the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, whose guidance and support have been most helpful.

A special thank should go to the Members of my Gender Advisory Board.

And I want to thank my team.

If you like what my Office did this term, the support you received, the guidance, the creativity, it is because I had a very good team.

And two-thirds of it was comprised of women. Many of them mothers.

We even had three new-born babies during the session.

A reminder of who we are leaving this world to.

And the greatest symbol of hope.

I wish my successor, President-elect Ambassador Dennis Francis a very productive presidency, and I wish you all success and decisions all of you will be proud of.

God bless you all, God bless the United Nations!

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