In a world of new challenges, ‘we need to build on what unites us’, Assembly President tells UN Member States
After a week of discussions on Member States’ priorities, challenges and impacts, the high-level portion of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly concluded on Monday, with the presiding official observing that the sheer number of participants indicated the importance of the General Debate in international affairs.
“This year, we heard from 190 speakers, including 76 Heads of State, 50 Heads of Government, four Vice-Presidents, five Deputy Prime Ministers, 48 Ministers and seven Heads of Delegations,” said General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi as he summed up the first in-person General Debate since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While only 23 speakers were women, he echoed the words of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who moderated this year’s first General Assembly Platform of Women Leaders, in saying that they “pack a punch”.
‘New era’ of humanity
Unable to boil down 190 statements into a few phrases, Mr. Kőrösi instead focused on some of the common themes, beginning a growing awareness that “humanity has entered a new era”.
Facing complex challenges and multi-layer crises, he said that significant transformations are underway, pointing out that “basic conditions” of global cooperation have changed, leaving “a world of new challenges, changing priorities, changing roles, and changing ways”.
“Fresh pages of history are being written, with new divisions and new alliances, new grievances, and new successes on them,” said the Assembly President.
Spotlight on Ukraine
Next, he said the Hall reverberated in accord that the war in Ukraine should end.
He recapped Member States’ concern over shortages, inflation, refugees, nuclear safety and the “dangers of misinformation and propaganda”.
“Yet, be it the largest and the most acute, the war in Ukraine is one of nearly 30 armed conflicts worldwide,” said the senior UN official, adding, “and none of them is improving”.
The third topic resonating throughout the speeches highlighted the dangers of climate change.
Discussions ensued about countries simultaneously experiencing droughts and flooding; unsustainable patterns of production and consumption; and plastic pollution filling oceans and killing fish, “even as waves of rising seas drown shorelines,” he continued.
Yet, despite calls to achieve global net-zero and for climate justice, some still seem unconvinced that “growing our economies can be balanced with limiting emissions and preserving biodiversity,” said Mr. Kőrösi.
Calls were also heard for improving human rights and meeting the needs of those most vulnerable to exploitation.
“There is a cost to speaking out about human rights violations,” he acknowledged, “but the freedom of speaking out is strongly supported”.
The Assembly President recalled addresses affirming diversity as “a strength, not a liability,” and drew attention to the high-level event on minorities marking 30 years since an historic Declaration on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.
Revitalization and reform
He also noted the support to revitalize the General Assembly to respond better to interlocking global crises and reform the Security Council to reflect the realities of this century.
The senior UN official then pointed to the goal of a peaceful post-COVID world with increased trust, where together we can work to mitigate and adapt to climate change. He reminded that his vision statement for “solutions through solidarity, sustainability and science” is a step in that direction.
“We need to build on what unites us,” and frame “the most burning challenges” in terms of crisis management and transformation, he said.
“To deepen solidarity, we must build trust”.
With the aim of strengthening universally accepted and owned actions, the Assembly president plans to launch a series of consultations, including with the scientific community.
He said that he is also looking ahead to preparations for the UN Water Conference, the Sendai Midterm review and the SDG Summit.
“When I addressed you a week ago, I said that things…go wrong when we fail to seize the opportunities before us,” said Mr. Kőrösi. “Our opportunity is here and now. Let us act”.
Before concluding, he thanked everyone who made the High-Level Week a success.