2015 presents historic opportunity to improve people’s lives, says UN Assembly President

14 January 2015

The next several months will present a historic opportunity to agree on an “inspiring” agenda that will directly improve the lives of people around the world, United Nations General Assembly President Sam Kutesa said today as he outlined his objectives for 2015.

“As we embark on the critical task of formulating an inclusive and transformative post-2015 development agenda, I call on Member States to approach the negotiations with a positive and constructive spirit,” Mr. Kutesa told the 193-Member Assembly this afternoon.

During his briefing, he looked back at the world body’s achievements during the last half of 2014, spotlighting, among others: the unprecedented international response to the Ebola crisis, and the historic establishment of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER); the endorsement of the outcome of the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; and completion of preparatory work for intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.

Looking ahead, he said the success of the new development agenda will depend on Member States’ ability to match ambitions with adequate means of implementation, he added, emphasizing that it will be critical to ensure coherence between the elaboration of the post-2015 agenda and the preparatory process for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July.

On climate change, Mr. Kutesa said the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the landmark UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Lima, Peru, last month, laid the groundwork for a universal and meaningful agreement to be finalized in Paris in December this year.

Meanwhile, the upcoming Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, scheduled for Japan in March, is expected to result in a post-2015 framework dealing with that issue, with a view to enhancing preparedness and strengthening countermeasures to climate-related disasters.

The devastating Ebola epidemic is another issue of major concern for the General Assembly, Mr. Kutesa said. “Throughout the crisis, the efforts of national governments have been heroic, as have been those of humanitarian staff, nurses, doctors, burial workers and ordinary civilians.”

But, he added: “We must redouble our efforts and remain seized of the crisis as the most affected countries face the devastating, long-term implications of the epidemic.” It is equally important to foster cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations.

Peace and security, which the Assembly President said lies “at the very heart” of the UN’s mission, came under jeopardy in 2014 with the myriad conflicts worldwide serving as stark reminders of the need for peaceful settlement of disputes. To that end, the Arms Trade Treaty’s (ATT) coming into force on 24 December certainly contributed to arms control.

The brutal terrorist attacks carried out by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram; the murders of school children in Pakistan; and the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris, Nigeria and elsewhere have put in sharp focus the rising threat of terrorism and extremism, Mr. Kutesa said.

The UN must re-double its efforts to combat extremism and terrorism in all their forms, he said, emphasizing that there is no justification for such attacks.

On the promotion of equal rights, Mr. Kutesa recalled that the current 69th session of the General Assembly marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women. This would provide a good opportunity to give even greater focus to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 agenda, he added.

Mr. Kutesa said he also looked forward to the unveiling of the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade in March, as part of the International Decade for People of African Descent, launched by the Assembly last month.

Also this year, the United Nations will celebrate its 70th anniversary. It is therefore critical to consider reform and ways to strengthen the Organization so that is it better able to meet the world’s increasingly complex challenges. Security Council reform remains a priority. On revitalizing the General Assembly itself, Mr. Kutesa said that the recurring challenges in the completion of the work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) should be addressed.

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