As the New Year begins, the 193-Member States of the United Nations are squarely focused on agreeing on a bold, ambitious and transformative post-2015 agenda that leaves no-one behind and provides a new framework for development and international cooperation for the next fifteen years, General Assembly President Sam Kutesa told reporters today.
“Seventy years after the founding of the United Nations, we have a truly historic opportunity to agree on an inspiring agenda that can energize the international community, governments everywhere and the citizens of the world,” he said, briefing the press at UN Headquarters.
“We must be ready to seize this challenge,” he said, referring to the opportunity provided as the Assembly begins work on crafting a sustainability agenda that will succeed the landmark, anti-poverty focused UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are to wrap up by the end of 2015.
Mr. Kutesa opened his remarks on a sombre note, condemning the “heinous and brutal” terrorist attacks that have affected several Member States over the past weeks by groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.
“[They] have put in sharp focus the rising threat of terrorism and extremism. There is no justification for such attacks and we must continue to condemn them. Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is criminal and unjustifiable,” he declared, urging the international community to re-double its efforts to combat the scourge.
“We also need to promote peaceful dialogue and mutual understanding amongst peoples to avoid extremism and polarization,” he said, also conveying, on behalf of the General Assembly, deepest sympathy and condolences to the victims of those deplorable acts and to their families, and to the peoples and the Governments of the respective Member States.
Mr. Kutesa also underlined the importance of ensuring the rights of children, and the right of every child to have access to education in a safe learning environment. He also expressed strong support for freedom of the press, free speech and the protection of journalists.
Looking back at the world body’s achievements during the last half 2014, he spotlighted, 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.
“Member States, co-facilitators, and other stakeholders can count on my full and continued engagement leading up to the Summit on the post-2015 development agenda in late September,” he said, adding that agreement on the modalities for that event has set the stage for the first session of intergovernmental negotiations, would take place next week, from 19 to 21 January.
In a related event, he announced that tomorrow, 16 January, he would hold an interactive dialogue providing the opportunity to encourage the contributions of civil society and other relevant stakeholders in formulating the post-2015 development agenda.
On some of the Assembly’s other priorities for the year, Mr. Kutesa noted that the world was now at the 90-day mark since the establishment of UNMEER. Although progress has been made in slowing down the spread of the epidemic in the three most affected countries, the crisis is not yet over.
“Far from it. We must re-double our efforts and remain seized of the crisis as the most-affected countries face the devastating, long-term implications. Longer term recovery will require significant and sustained commitment from the international community,” he said.
He also stressed that the contribution to the fight against the spread of the virus by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in collaboration with the UN and other partners has demonstrated the crucial importance of enhancing cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations.
The Assembly President went on to say that addressing climate change remains a key priority. He had participated in 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, which laid the groundwork for a universal and meaningful agreement to be finalized in Paris in December this year.
On UN reform and revitalization, he said reform of the Security Council remains a priority and the intergovernmental negotiations on that issue must move forward. “The on-going informal consultations by the Chair are critical to finding a way toward text-based negotiations, with the next round of negotiations scheduled to begin in February,” he said, adding that his spokesperson would inform the press regarding a briefing to the media by Ambassador Courtenay Rattray of Jamaica, Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council reform.
As for revitalization of the Assembly itself, he said that while some progress has been made to improve the 193-Member body’s efficiency and effectiveness, much more work remains to be done.
As for other upcoming Assembly activities, Mr. Kutesa noted, among others, that on 6 February, he would convene a special event on the occasion of World Interfaith Harmony Week in cooperation with a committee of religious non-governmental organizations; on 9 and 10 February, he would convene a high-level thematic debate on “means of implementation for a transformative post-2015 development agenda; and on 6 March, he would convene a high-level thematic debate on advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda.
“In June, I will also convene a high-level event on ‘The Demographic Dividend and Youth Employment,’” he said, spotlighting an meetining that would focus on the investments needed to reap that dividend, including through employment opportunities and decent work for young people.