Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly

– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly to Discuss the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly



Excellencies, distinguished delegates, dear colleagues,

The agenda item for our meeting refers to the revitalization of the work of of the General Assembly. In simple terms, we are here to explore how to strengthen the role of this body. How to improve the work you and I do. And how to best address the interests of the governments and, importantly, the people we are all here to represent.

So, this is a discussion that affects all of us.

I want to express my sincere thanks to Ambassador Drobnjak of Croatia and Ambassador Nusseibeh of the United Arab Emirates for their dedicated work as Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly during the 71st Session. I am confident that you will all offer your full support to Ambassador Drobnjak, as well as newly-appointed Co-Chair, Ambassador Mejía Vélez of Colombia, in the session ahead.



I want to make four main points today:

The first is that this process does work. Over the past few years, we have had achievements.

Of course, a major example is the selection and appointment of the Secretary-General. For decades, this was a secret process. However, all of you said no to business as usual. And that is why, in 2016, things were done differently. For the first time, the world had an opportunity to review – and even interact with – the candidates for the UN’s top position. You have also mandated me to continue this trend of transparency and inclusivity in the selection of my successor.

The introduction of an Oath of Office and Code of Ethics for the President of the General Assembly were further powerful achievements. Now, no President can ever claim that he or she is ignorant to the standards and responsibility attached to this office.

Another tangible result was seen through the adoption of resolutions that set clear timeframes for elections. These have helped Member States to better prepare for their roles, including as members of ECOSOC and non-permanent members of the Security Council.

My second point is more personal. I am not here just to call for action from you. Action is needed from me too.

I was the second President in history to take the Oath of Office. I follow this oath closely as I work to uphold the high standards of transparency and ethics set by my two predecessors.

This work has taken three main forms.

The first is through full disclosure related to the financing, staffing and travel of my office. All such information is available on my website. I will soon become the first President of the General Assembly to publish a summary of my financial disclosure statement online. I hope this serves as a concrete measure to step up the commitment of this office to transparency.

The second way relates to the activities of my office. I publish my agenda on my website every day. My spokesperson also gives daily briefings to the media. These efforts are not just geared towards transparency, they are also intended to promote awareness and interest in the activities of the United Nations General Assembly.

The third way is through interaction with other parts of the UN system. I intend to make full use of the General Committee, as requested by the resolution 71/323. I met informally with the Committee before the start of the regular session, to allow for a frank exchange of views. Our third meeting of the session is scheduled to take place in December. Additionally, I hold monthly meetings with the Secretary-General and the presidents of the Security Council and ECOSOC to strengthen coherence throughout our work.

I want to use the opportunity presented by this meeting to stress my commitment to the revitalization process.

The General Assembly cannot be a place to advance our own interests. It cannot be a place we come to with nothing but red lines and static positions. This might be a tempting option. And it can lead to a win for one person, or one state, or one group. But, on the whole, we will all lose.


President of the UN General Assembly

My third point today is that we need to look ahead.

We will discuss many important issues during the 72nd session.

Three issues that may be considered include:

  • First, conduct related to election campaigns;
  • Second, the strengthening of interaction between Permanent Missions and the UN Secretariat; and
  • Third, options to establish a longer-term and more transparent rotation of the chairs of the main committees.

The issue of reform will also be high on our agenda. This will provide us with an opportunity to enhance the General Assembly’s engagement and role throughout the United Nations system.

When looking ahead, I want to point to the gap between the level of mandated activities and events, and the capacity of the UN system to support them. My office is grappling with this challenge, and I urge you to address it.

On a related note, I want to highlight the lack of institutional memory within this office. Investment in human capital is needed if Member States wish to maintain standards of work and ensure smooth transitions between presidencies.

As I’ve said before, action is needed from me too. I have launched a series of morning dialogues, which will target all UN Member States. They are intended to complement ongoing processes of the 72nd Session, such as the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly.

Finally, I want to remind all of us of the responsibility on our shoulders.

The General Assembly is the most representative body of the United Nations. It gives all 193 Member States a voice and a vote. It deals with all three pillars of the UN’s work: peace and security, development, and human rights. And it draws in all actors and entities from across the UN system.

That is why the impact of the work of the General Assembly extends far beyond this hall. In fact, what we do here affects the credibility and outcomes of the United Nations as a whole.

So, improving the way we work is not only in the interest of all of us here today – it is also in the interest of people in their homes or communities, thousands of miles away from here.



I believe this hall should be a place for dialogue. A place we should enter with ideas and proposals – and exit with new perspectives and achievements.

Because, this allows it to be a place where the interests of all 193 Member States – and the billions of people they represent – can be advanced.

The General Assembly cannot be a place to advance our own interests. It cannot be a place we come to with nothing but red lines and static positions. This might be a tempting option. And it can lead to a win for one person, or one state, or one group. But, on the whole, we will all lose.

I urge you all to bear this in mind, as we discuss the revitalization of the work of this body.

I thank you.