In a rare secret ballot vote, the United Nations General Assembly today elected Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative of Fiji, as President of its upcoming 71st session.
Mr. Thomson, who will replace current General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, will begin his tenure in September at the commencement of the 71st General Assembly session.
The new President-elect defeated Andreas Mavroyiannis of Cyprus by a secret-ballot vote of 94 to 90, with one abstention.
The selection of the President of the General Assembly follows a geographical rotation system, with respective regional groups putting forward a consensus candidate every year. If a group cannot reach consensus on a nominee, a vote by secret ballot will take place.
Following the voting, Mr. Thomson highlighted that his election marked the first time that a representative of a Pacific small island developing State will serve as Assembly President. He added that as a representative of such a State, he planned to be vocal on the issue of climate change.
Mr. Thomson also noted that the Assembly's 71st session would bring momentum to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and serve to achieve progress on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In that regard, he pledged to serve the Assembly and UN in a spirit of fidelity and commitment to the common good.
For his part, Mr. Lykketoft noted that Mr. Thomson brought extensive experience in matters of rural development, as well as in international affairs for many years.
Expressing his support for Mr. Thomson's preparations to assume the presidency on 13 September, Mr. Lykketoft said that much work remained to be done during the current session, including preparing for a high-level event on large movements of refugees and migrants in September, and further informal dialogues with candidates for the position of Secretary-General, as necessary.
Congratulating Mr. Thomson on his new role, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted that the President-elect brings a broad perspective to his new post, having years of experience in the international arena, both working for the Government of Fiji and in the private sector.
“I am confident that he will seek the views of others to forge consensus. As the new President-elect once said, 'Progress at the United Nations does not emanate from adversarial corners, but from cooperation by those who meet in the middle,” Mr. Ban said.
The Secretary-General noted that during Mr. Thomson's posting as Permanent Representative, he made his mark as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China.
Mr. Ban also said that Mr. Thomson gained extensive knowledge of the UN development system as Chair of the Executive Board of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS). Moreover, Mr. Ban highlighted Mr. Thomson's experience as Vice President of the General Assembly from 2010 to 2011.
“In addition to his staunch commitment to development, the new President-elect brings the very valuable perspective of a small island developing State to this post. He is a staunch advocate of both sustainable development and climate action. I count on him to help us carry out both the
2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change,” the Secretary-General said.
The UN chief also said that Mr. Thomson will have an opportunity to build on the “extraordinary progress” seen under the leadership of Mr. Lykketoft.
“At this time, I would like to take this opportunity to particularly commend Mr. Lykketoft for his many important initiatives,” the Secretary-General said.
“Already this month, the Assembly has adopted an action-oriented political declaration on ending AIDS. He has convened thematic debates on pressing global challenges – and he has travelled to the frontlines of crisis,” he added.
Mr. Ban also noted that Mr. Lykketoft has brought new transparency to the selection process for the next Secretary-General.
“This has drawn unprecedented and very welcome attention around the world,” Mr. Ban said.
Made up of all the 193 Member States of the UN, the General Assembly provides a forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the UN Charter. It meets in regular session intensively from September to December each year, and thereafter as required.