Focusing on people: UN General Assembly’s 72nd session gets underway

“Making a difference in the lives of ordinary people.” Such is the ambition of the 72nd session of the United Nations’ main policymaking body – the General Assembly – which opened in New York on 12 September, followed by an intense UN high-level week on 18-22 September.

The session’s theme, “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet,” reflects the overarching priorities of the new President of the General Assembly, Mr. Miroslav Lajčák. At the turn of the month, the work of the General Assembly’s main committees will kick off.

The Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee) is where global consensus on development strategies and policies is built. It is here that countries reach common ground on some of the most debated issues in today’s international relations, including the international financial system and global economic governance, globalization and interdependence, as well as international economic cooperation.

Sectoral policy issues, such as agriculture and industrialization, sustainable development, operational activities for development, follow-up to international conferences and summits are also high on the Committee’s agenda. The Committee promotes international economic cooperation and delivers political guidance for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

This year, the Committee will hold its opening session on Monday, 2 October, featuring a keynote address by Arvind Panagariya, Professor of Economics and Jagdish N. Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy, School of International and Political Affairs of Columbia University, and also a noted expert on international trade policy, economic development and economic reform.

On 11 October, it will hold a joint meeting with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), under the theme “The Future of Everything – Sustainable Development in the Age of Rapid Technological Change”. The meeting will focus on how technological advancements will impact the future of people and planet, and explore how innovation can contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

The Committee will also hold three side events: on the future of work (4 October), on science, technology and inclusive innovation for advancing sustainable development (12 October), and on innovative ways to explore data to understand the gender dimensions of poverty and advance the Sustainable Development Goals (18 October).

The Committee dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural issues, the General Assembly’s Third Committee, will also open its working session on 2 October. Mr. Liu Zhenmin, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General, will deliver opening remarks before both the Second and Third Committees as they begin their working sessions.

Focusing on issues related to human rights and social development, the Committee will as in previous years hone in on the advancement of women, the protection of children, indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees, the promotion of fundamental freedoms through the elimination of racism and racial discrimination and the right to self- determination. It will also address questions related to youth, family, ageing, and persons with disabilities.

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