Secretary-General Commends Efforts on Environment, Refugees, Counter-Terrorism
The outgoing President of the General Assembly today stressed he was fully convinced that the only way to safeguard the future of the planet was through the faithful implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as he formally handed over the gavel to the President-elect of the seventy-second session.
Concluding the Assembly’s seventy-first session, President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said that implementing those agreements was well within the grasp of the international community, emphasizing: “We have not come this far as a species only to be defeated by greed.”
Reflecting on the past year, Mr. Thomson said the jewel in the crown of the session was the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda, known as the Ocean Conference. Held in June, the five-day event had attracted the best of international expertise on oceans and raised global consciousness related to oceans, seas and marine resources.
Mr. Thomson said the Assembly had also succeeded in generating momentum across all the Goals and that while gains were being made in some key areas, progress on individual Goals was uneven across regions, and among people of different genders, ages, wealth and locales. Those awareness gaps remained far too high, he emphasized, adding that major inconsistencies also existed across the United Nations system, including when it came to effectively and coherently supporting Member States.
The power and importance of bringing together a wide range of actors to implement the 2030 Agenda had been demonstrated during the Ocean Conference, he noted, although a major shift was required regarding financing, including moving the financial system away from unsustainable investments. The international community must now embrace the power of innovation and technology to leverage the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and combat climate change at the speed and scale required.
Turning to other accomplishments, Mr. Thomson recalled that, in September 2016, the Assembly had adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, laying the ground for a more humane and coordinated approach to the challenges facing both refugees and migrants. In December, the body had adopted a resolution establishing a mechanism to facilitate the investigation of serious crimes committed in Syria since 2011, while in May, the first steps towards reforming the United Nations Secretariat had been undertaken. Other achievements included adopting a resolution to create the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office.
Prior to those remarks, Secretary-General António Guterres commended Mr. Thomson for his vision and energy in helping steer Member States to a solid record of achievement over the past year. “Day in and day out, you brought us together,” he said, highlighting that Mr. Thomson had played a critical role in last September’s high-level meeting on refugees and migrants resulting in the adoption of the New York Declaration, which had pointed the way towards compassionate and people-centred ways to address those challenges.
Mr. Guterres went on to point out that the resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of operational activities for development had set the stage for repositioning the United Nations to better support countries in implementing the 2030 Agenda. The Assembly had also taken other important steps to advance the 2030 Agenda, including through the establishment of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries and the adoption of the indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and targets. The Ocean Conference was a timely exercise that had helped to raise awareness about the need to sustainably use the world’s marine resources. It had also shown the big impact that small island developing States such as Fiji could have in shaping the international agenda and providing solutions for shared problems.
Over the past year, Mr. Guterres said, the Assembly had continued to serve as a forum for pressing issues, as it also opened its doors to vital partners such as civil society and the private sector. The Assembly had also taken up the task of selecting a new Secretary-General, using new features such as candidate dialogues and vision statements, a process that had established new standards of transparency.
As the meeting concluded, President-elect of the seventy-second session, Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), took the Presidential Oath of Office, promising to discharge his functions and regulate his conduct in the sole interest of the United Nations, in view of and in accordance with the Charter.