– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

18 September 2018

General Assembly Hall at the seventy-third session Election

Opening of the 73rd session of the General Assembly


Distinguished delegates,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to address you for the first time as President of the General Assembly. I speak with a profound sense of responsibility and commitment to the United Nations Charter and its founding principles.

I also feel the deepest respect for the world’s peoples, whose well-being is our principal goal.

Over the past several weeks I have had the good fortune to meet with many of you as I have prepared myself and my Office for this great challenge.  Our consultations have made me appreciate how much has been done over the past decade to revitalize the workings of the General Assembly and enhance its capacity to address the challenges facing Member States and their diverse societies.

I am honoured to represent my beloved region of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is a region of peace. A region committed to human rights.

This is an honour as well for my country, Ecuador, which is one of the founding members of the United Nations and a dedicated supporter of its work. My presidency reflects my country’s support for multilateralism and its people’s sense of international solidarity and cooperation.

But my presidency must go beyond the national political work that I have dedicated my last 11 years to. From today forward, you can be sure that I am working under the blue flag of our United Nations, promoting the interests and shared commitments of all its 193 Member States.

I should also note that my presidency marks the first time a woman represents the Latin American and Caribbean region.

I am only the fourth woman to assume this role. Three impressive women have presided over the General Assembly in the past 72 years: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit from India in 1953; Angie Brooks from Liberia in 1969; and Haya Rashed Al Khalifa from the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2006.

These milestones inspire me to dedicate my presidency to the women and girls of my region. I want to support those women who have entered politics; who are demanding equality in the workplace; those women and girls who are victims of violence; to those girls and adolescents who demand access to quality education.

I would like to thank my predecessor, His Excellency, Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, whose leadership of the 72nd Session has been both instructive and inspirational. I intend to build on his accomplishments and follow his example of strong, inclusive leadership.  I will continue with the morning dialogues with Member States and the monthly coordination meeting with the principle organs of the Organization.

Let me wish President Lajčák all the best as he returns to represent our sister Republic of Slovakia.

I thank the Permanent Mission of Ecuador for the enormous support its staff has provided during these weeks of transition. As well, I thank the other Missions who have contributed such excellent staff for my Cabinet. And, of course, the professional guidance and support provided by the staff of the UN Secretariat.

Let me express my gratitude to the Permanent Mission of Finland for hosting a preparatory retreat in July where I was able to confer with the His Excellency Lajčák, the current and incoming Vice-Presidents-elect, the Main Committee Chairs and the chef-de cabinet of the Secretary-General as well as officials of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.

Mr. Secretary-General,

I am grateful for the support you have given me as I prepared to assume the Presidency. Throughout the coming year, I anticipate working closely with you, including on the implementation of the ambitious reform agenda of the United Nations. This is a process which I hope to move forward in accordance with the mandates of Member States.


The General Assembly is not just the most democratic and representative forum in the world. It is a space embracing the most diverse cultures of the world. You, dear colleagues, constitute an invaluable center of global thought and vision which has tremendous influence in the world and on our governments and our peoples. Your thinking, wisdom and vision set the standards for our cooperation and development, among our nations and for our people. Each day we must search for solutions to the most difficult problems that face humanity and our planet.

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During the past 72 years, this Assembly has produced and codified an invaluable body of international law and defined our many human rights. We know that, despite many achievements, there is much to be done.

I want the Assembly to continue to strengthen its role as the chief deliberative and policymaking organ of the United Nations. I will support and lead the revitalization and alignment processes as a way to ensure our greater coordination, coherence, efficiency and delivery capacity.

I am confident that our shared leadership will enable the General Assembly to continue to contribute to standard-setting and the codification of international law and, as mandated, to work closely with the broader UN family to ensure the full and speedy implementation of all United Nations instruments.

Making the United Nations relevant to all people will be the focus of my work during this session of the Assembly. I am concerned that we have not made the case for the United Nations in ways that inspire the broadest possible public understanding and support.

By making the public more aware of work and the goals of the Organization, we will enhance people’s support for the implementation of our agreements at the national level.

In this regard, it is important that the public is aware of the work that our 193 Member State delegates will be carrying out over the next 12 months. We are addressing 330 resolutions, all of which reflect global concerns. We will hold over 100 plenary sessions of the Assembly as well as innumerable working sessions and negotiations in pursuit of consensus agreements.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for example, is best measured by its impact on the wellbeing of the world’s people. This impact – on daily life and into the future — is ultimately what makes the United Nations relevant and valuable to the world.

In order to assure our relevance as an Organization, I want to emphasize our need for global leadership within the framework of multilateralism and our shared responsibilities to attain peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies. This vision will inspire all of my efforts in the coming months.

My presidency will strive to bring the United Nations closer to the people, through effective, dynamic and meaningful communication that has relevance to the public, and which strengthens their sense of ownership and support for this Organization.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies, we now begin a new Session of intense activity.

Preparations are being finalized for the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit on 24 September, the high-level plenary event on global peace in honour of the centenary of Madiba’s birth. This event provides all States with the historic opportunity to present their views on how to prevent conflicts, and provides a renewed boost to build more peaceful and resilient societies.

The first day of nine days of the high-level General Debate by world leaders begins on 25 September. Although there are hundreds of side events scheduled during the General Debate, I encourage your delegations to be represented in the General Assembly hall as our Heads of State and Government deliver their addresses during the plenary.

On 26 September, the Assembly will hold a high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis as part of the programme around the Sustainable Development Goals.

And on 27 September, the Assembly holds its third high-level comprehensive review of the progress on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

As we proceed, I will continue the practice of holding monthly meetings with the Presidents of the Security Council and of the Economic and Social Council, as well as the periodic coordination meetings with the Secretary-General.

Another priority of this session, without a doubt, will be the monitoring and evaluation of the progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. I want to assure you that I will encourage all actions within my reach to ensure that this Assembly plays a key role to advance in the achievement of these Goals and their Targets. We must start the preparations for the Assembly’s High-level Political Forum during its 74th Session in close coordination with the Economic and Social Council.

I will continue the hard work that has taken place to improve synergies within the United Nations system, in support of social and economic development, human rights, humanitarian aid, disarmament, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, as well as sufficient financing for the work of the Organization.

It is evident that the Security Council must adapt to new political realities. During my tenure, I will offer all my support to the Security Council reform process, in tune with the times and the pace that you, the Member States, will determine. This is a Member-State-driven process and my role will be to accompany States in this journey.

The theme and broad concepts that I hope will inspire the work of the 73rd General Assembly are:

Making the United Nations relevant to all people:

Global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies

In this regard, there are seven priority issues that I would like to share with you that, in consultation with Member States, I have identified to underscore the theme of this session:

  1. To promote our goal of gender equality, we will press for the empowerment of women and girls, keeping in mind the important role of men and boys, making it clear that life is better for all of us when all people have equal access to economic, social and political life in our societies.
  2. We will focus on the promotion and implementation of the new global compacts on migration and refugees to better manage the flow of tens of millions of migrants and refugees now requiring assistance and protection.
  3. We wish to highlight innovative thinking around the future of work, especially assuring decent work for young people as they join the workforce.
  4. The Assembly should continue to promote efforts to protect our environment and raise government and public awareness of international commitments to our planet. In particular, I would like to highlight the problem of plastics pollution as a pervasive environmental hazard, affecting the health and well-being of people around the world.
  5. The General Assembly should continue to raise awareness around issues relating to persons with disability and deepen political and social commitment to this underserved population which represents the world’s largest minority.
  6. The United Nations is in the midst of a reform process that is crucial to ensuring its effectiveness, credibility and relevance in an increasingly troubled world. I will focus on three areas to implement the reform of the UN system. First, we will work to advance the process of revitalization of the General Assembly. Second, we must optimize our working methods to strengthen our decision making as the principal organ of the UN system. Third, we will continue to provide support for the reform process of the Security Council, in keeping with decisions taken by Member States.
  7. The Assembly must become the principal organ of the UN for the promotion of peace. Through dialogue and understanding, we must explore the increasing opportunities available to enhance human security, particularly in light of the emphasis being placed on prevention to stem potential conflict and violence. We must also highlight that investing in young people and involving them in the issues peace and security are central to our support for the agenda for Sustainable Development. I intend to facilitate this dialogue throughout my presidency.

I wish to assure you that I will support and lead, with the participation of all the Member States, the high-level meetings and conferences on global health; climate change; South-South cooperation; the relationship between migration and development; cooperation in the fight against illicit financial flows, among other topics. My interest will be to ensure that these deliberations reach useful and concrete recommendations.

I am also prepared to facilitate quick and effective responses of the General Assembly to emergency situations as they arise.  And, unfortunately, they will arise.

My presidency will strive to bring the United Nations closer to the people, through effective, dynamic and meaningful communication that has relevance to the public, and which strengthens their sense of ownership and support for this Organization.

I will uphold your good practices, organizing the Office of the President of the General Assembly, ensuring its geographical representation, gender parity, and total transparency in its administrative and financial management.

Finally, let me assure you that I will observe, with absolute responsibility, the Code of Ethics for the President of the General Assembly, and I will abide strictly by the precepts of the Charter of the United Nations and the Rules of Procedure of this General Assembly.

So let us proceed together, building a world more equal and free, more sustainable and respectful of nature, and more inclusive and supportive. I thank you for your support and your confidence.

Now, let us begin the work of the 73rd General Assembly.

Thank you.