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Dennis Francis (centre), President of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, chairs the opening of the General Debate.

Unity, solidarity and action needed now: General Assembly President

UN Photo/Cia Pak
Dennis Francis (centre), President of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, chairs the opening of the General Debate.

Unity, solidarity and action needed now: General Assembly President

UN Affairs

Global unity and solidarity are needed in the face of myriad crises that threaten to reverse decades of development gains and resign millions to poverty, the President of the UN General Assembly said in his address to the opening of its 78th General Debate on Tuesday. 

Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago underscored the Assembly’s role 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 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic more than three years ago, Heads of State and Government from most of the UN’s 193 Member States are meeting in the iconic General Assembly Hall for their annual week of debates.

“This year our imperative is clear: to unite the nations, to be united in conviction of common purpose and in solidarity of joint action,” said Mr. Francis.

He stressed that a common approach is needed now, as much as at any point in history, as the international community confronts conflict, climate change, debt, energy and food crises, and poverty and famine.

Rebuild global trust

These challenges are rolling back decades of hard-won development gains, thus condemning millions to lifelong intergenerational poverty and hardship, he said.

Appealing to a common humanity, he implored leaders to make “full and effective use” of the General Assembly as the global forum to ignite change.

“Let us listen and learn. Let us rebuild trust and reignite global solidarity. And let us find common ground to address the challenges we face,” he said.

End the war in Ukraine

The message is even more important in the face of the continued violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, the Assembly President continued.

The “horrendous war” has unleashed untold suffering in the country, with fallout across the globe, affecting food security and energy prices, and even raised “the unconscionable threat” of nuclear war.

“We all want this war to end. It is an affront to everything that this organization and the UN Charter stands for,” he said.

Peace and sustainable development

Mr. Francis further highlighted the need for just and sustainable peace in Ukraine and in other regions, from Africa to the Middle East. He expressed concern over 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 rescue the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to create a more equitable and greener future for all people and the planet by 2030.

Due to the cascading global crises, and lack of financing, the 17 goals are in jeopardy, with more than a billion people still living in poverty.

“The onus is on us – collectively – to make up for the lost momentum and work much harder in the remaining seven years to accelerate progress on that which we have promised to deliver,” 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 flooding, and expressed hope for the speedy dispatch of resources and relief.

“As a citizen of a climate-vulnerable region, I urge Member States to recognize the continued and escalating impacts of climate change – and to 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 champion vulnerable and marginalized groups, including Indigenous Peoples, persons living with disabilities, and older persons.

He also pledged to continue to draw attention to the world’s least-developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states.

“But first and foremost, we need to work for all women and girls, who are appallingly still struggling for equality and respect,” he said.

“We must ‘walk the talk’ on gender equality and women’s empowerment. This means according women full, equal, and meaningful participation at every level.”