– As delivered –

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

15 December 2018

Your Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar,

Your Excellency, Mr. Lenin Moreno, President of the Republic of Ecuador,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

salaam alaikum, Sabaj al kjair , good morning,


It is a pleasure to join you for the 2018 Doha Forum, which has become, over the past 18 years, one of the most vibrant platforms for global dialogue and for addressing the critical challenges facing the world.

Let me begin by congratulating the organizers for convening such a diverse group of participants.

I also commend for organizing the first Youth Edition of the Doha Forum last month. One of my priorities as President for the General Assembly is precisely young people.  They are key to solving the challenges we face and their voices must not only be heard, but listened to and acted upon.

And there is no shortage of challenges. Multiple crises – environmental, political, economic and social – are fuelling instability across the globe.

Today, Member States of the United Nations must confront challenges that the Organization’s founders could not have imagined, from cyber security to climate change. But they must also face problems that would have been all too familiar to a generation pummelled by two world wars, such as populism, rising nationalist sentiment and mass displacement.

Across the world, almost 70 million people have been forced to leave their homes fleeing bombs, guns, rape, poverty and starvation. Last year, nearly one person was forcibly displaced every two seconds, as a result of conflict or persecution.

I came here from Marrakesh, Morocco, where, a few days ago, Member States, gathered at the highest political level, adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the first agreement designed to better manage international migration in all its dimensions, for the benefit of all States and communities, and with the rights of all migrants at the core. Today, there are over 258 million migrants around the world living outside their country of birth. Together, with the Global Compact on Refugees, these agreements constitute a remarkable achievement of international cooperation and multilateralism.

Next week, I will convene member states in New York to formally take action on the two compacts, which reflect the fundamental principles of humanity and solidarity; but also the benefits of our interconnectedness.

So I welcome the themes of this Forum: security, peace and mediation, economic development, and trends and transitions.

Security is at the heart of the United Nations – a promise that ‘we the peoples’, expressed in the Charter and reaffirmed countless times by Member States: from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 70th anniversary we celebrate this week; to the mandates of the blue helmets; and Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development, and its central commitment to peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies.

Sadly, the international community has failed too often to uphold this promise – failures that caused untold suffering and have deprived millions and millions of people of the fruits of sustainable development.

And the rest of the world suffers with them. We cannot achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals when conflict and instability limit the gains of cooperation and threaten to reverse the hard-won progress we have made to date.

The international community needs to do more to support peace and mediation. Dialogue is the only tried and tested approach to addressing global challenges. This is particularly the case where peace and security issues are concerned. They increasingly span borders and regions, and cannot be addressed or contained by any one country – or indeed by countries – alone.

The inclusion of women and young people is critical both for the success of the peace and security agenda, and to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. We must collectively work to empower women and youth by supporting their participation in peace and political processes, and by creating greater economic opportunities.



The Sustainable Development Goals represent the commitment of our international community to end poverty and hunger, improve the health and well-being of millions of people around the world and leave no one behind, while we safeguard the environment for current and future generations as well.

To achieve this, it is essential that we renew the foundations of cooperation for development, including south-south cooperation. Between 1995 and 2016, south-south exports grew each year by an average of 13 percent, with the value of south-south trade increasing almost sevenfold to 4 trillion dollars during the same period.

Next year’s High Level Meeting of the United Nations on South-South Cooperation in Buenos Aires, and the Third South Summit, to be hosted by Uganda with support from the Qatar Fund for Development, will be important occasions to strengthen these essential partnerships.

Another priority area is the access to decent work. I plan a High Level Meeting on Decent Work, together with the International Labour Organization, to agree on policy changes required  to ensure that all people – including women, youth and persons with disabilities – benefit from access to decent work.

This will require active engagement around prevailing and emerging trends – such as the impact of new technologies on the nature and future of work, and the backlash we are seeing against globalization, even as the world grows ever more interconnected.

Globalization has boosted opportunities for trade and development. But it has also increased our vulnerability to shocks, from bank defaults to disease outbreaks, and left too many people feeling marginalized. They have lost faith in the ability of national and global institutions to keep them safe and improve their lives.

To date, neither the United Nations, nor traditional political establishments have succeeded in addressing this sense of insecurity. Many policy-makers are overwhelmed by the sheer scale and intensity of the challenges we face. Some of them have turned inwards, too preoccupied with domestic concerns to invest in the global solutions we so urgently need. This, in turn, is being exploited by those who seek to attribute people’s daily struggles to the failures of multilateral institutions.

The world is at a highly complex transition point. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that we have just 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C to avoid drought, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Earlier this week, the International Monetary Fund issued warnings about a new financial crisis, at a time when countries are still recovering from the last. Geopolitical tensions are on the rise. So too is inequality. Meanwhile, humanitarian and migratory crises show few signs of slowing. All of this requires our full attention to reach agreements and solutions that are effective.

I was encouraged to hear Heads of State and Government repeatedly emphasize the need for a stronger multilateral system at the General Assembly last September. The adoption of the Global Compact on Migration in Marrakesh demonstrates that states can still come together and make progress, even on some of the most challenging issues we all face.


Your Highness, Excellencies:

Making the United Nations relevant to all people Is the theme that I have chosen for this session of the General Assembly, and I am working with Member States to put in place the reform processes that are underway and revitalize the United Nations. We must move towards a global governance system that is more democratic and effective. That also implies building a fairer and more equitable world order.

So there is much work to do over these two days at the Forum, and I look forward to fruitful discussions that reinforce the truth that multilateralism is essential for promoting national interest, and the wellbeing of all in an interconnected world.

There is a verse by Qatar’s Founder that I hope will guide us: “we have been plighted by many serious adversities /yet that has neither weakened our firm will nor (our) stances.” End of quote.

At this time of great challenge for the world, I invite you all to show similar resolve in our efforts to build a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world.

Thank you very much,