Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago underlined the role of the Assembly as a unique and truly global platform for debate, dialogue and problem-solving through multilateral diplomacy.
A clear imperative
For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than three years ago, the heads of state and government of most of the UN’s 193 member states are gathering in the iconic General Assembly Hall for their annual week of debates.
“This year our mission is clear: to unite the nations, to be united in the conviction of a common purpose and in solidarity of common action,” Mr Francis said.
He stressed that now, as at any other time in history, a common approach is needed as the international community faces conflict, climate change, debt, energy and food crises, and poverty and famine.
Restore global trust
These challenges are rolling back decades of hard-won development gains, condemning millions to lifelong intergenerational poverty and deprivation, he said.
He appealed to a common humanity and implored leaders to make “full and effective use” of the General Assembly as a global forum to drive change.
“Let’s listen and learn. Let us restore trust and revive global solidarity. And let us find common ground to tackle the challenges we face,” he said.
End the war in Ukraine
The message is even more important in light of the continued violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, the General Assembly President continued.
The “terrible war” has unleashed untold suffering in the country, with repercussions around the world, affecting food security and energy prices, and even increasing “the unconscionable threat” of nuclear war.
“We all want this war to end. It is an insult to everything this organization and the UN Charter stand for,” he said.
Peace and sustainable development
Mr. Francis further emphasized the need for just and lasting peace in Ukraine and in other regions from Africa to the Middle East. He expressed concern about the resurgence of coups in Africa and called for more analysis of the root causes of this “alarming trend”.
The UN General Assembly’s High-Level Week kicked off on Monday with a summit to save the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to create a fairer and greener future for all people and the planet by 2030.
Due to successive global crises and lack of financing, the seventeen goals are at risk, with more than a billion people still living in poverty.
“It is up to us – collectively – to make up for the lost momentum and work much harder over the next seven years to accelerate progress on what we have promised to achieve,” he said.
Support for Libya and Morocco
Mr. Francis also reiterated his deepest condolences to the governments and peoples of both Morocco and Libya, following the devastating and deadly earthquakes and floods, and expressed hope for a speedy dispatch of resources and aid.
“As a citizen of a climate-sensitive region, I urge Member States to recognize the persistent and escalating impacts of climate change – and deliver real, transformative results,” he said.
Women and girls first
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Mr Francis underlined his commitment to standing up for vulnerable and marginalized groups, including indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and the elderly.
He also pledged to continue to focus on the world’s least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.
“But first and foremost, we must stand up for all women and girls, who terribly continue to struggle for equality and respect,” he said.
“We need to speak out about gender equality and women’s empowerment. This means full, equal and meaningful participation for women at all levels.”