– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly
15 January 2019
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to preside over the first informal meeting of the General Assembly at its resumed session, to provide a briefing on what has been achieved, but also on our plans for the coming months.
After almost four months of the seventy-third session of the General Assembly, we can be proud of what has been achieved so far.
We began the session with an unprecedented level of participation of world leaders at the General Debate, with 126 heads of State and Government, which sent a strong message on the attachment of our leaders to multilateralism and the ability of the Organization to fulfil its mandate.
The main part of the 73rd session of the General Assembly adopted 281 resolutions and 63 decisions. The main Committees accomplished successfully their work and delivered on their respective mandates. The Fifth Committee concluded its work during the main part of session, on 22 December 2018, which is the best record in the past decade.
In Marrakech, we adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. We also moved forward on the Work Programme of the Paris Agreement (the so-called rulebook) at COP24 in Katowice, Poland.
As mandated by the General Assembly, I convened a one-day High-Level Meeting on Middle-Income Countries on 4 December 2018. The meeting came up with concrete and solid recommendations for addressing the gaps and challenges of middle-income countries, representing two-thirds of the total UN membership, in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Building on the good practice established during the previous session, I have launched a series of Morning Dialogues with Ambassadors, focusing on thematic issues perceived as challenges to the General Assembly and the United Nations. These meetings, now called Morning Minga, refer to an Ecuadorian tradition of community activity.
I have appointed 28 co-facilitators and co-chairs, out of which almost 60% are women. Most of them have already engaged consultations with delegations and other stakeholders on their respective processes. Soon, co-facilitators will be appointed for the outstanding processes.
I am pleased to note that co-facilitators are already at work. The process on South-South cooperation, for instance, has advanced and the first consultation of the Zero Draft will be convened later this week (17 January). The outcome of the BAPA+40 process will send a strong signal on our collective commitment to multilateralism in the lead up to High-Level Week 2019.
We still have more than eight months ahead of us, which brings me to our plans moving forward.
I will focus on the seven priorities identified along the theme of the 73rd session: ‘Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.’
First, I would like to start with the revitalization of the United Nations in order to strengthen a multilateral rule-based world order.
Against the backdrop of an increasingly turbulent world with serious challenges confronting us, including an emerging threat to multilateralism, we need to reiterate our attachment to the principles and values enshrined in the UN Charter.
At the general debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly, world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to revitalize the United Nations and benefit from its potential for a world order based on multilateralism.
Convinced that revitalizing the UN and advancing multilateralism go hand-in-hand; and building on the political momentum created at the General Debate, I am engaged in a genuine dialogue with world leaders throughout my different activities in New York and abroad, to promote this objective.
As part of that effort, I will convene a meeting with a number of former Presidents of the General Assembly, on 4 February, on the theme: “Revitalization of the United Nations in favor of a strengthened multilateral rules-based system”.
This initiative aims at crafting a set of recommendations for a UN that delivers effectively and efficiently for the people.
I am also planning, in close collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization, to convene a meeting with Mayors and other stakeholders, on 19 February, under the theme: “From Global Issues to Local Priorities: The role of Cities in the Global Agenda, including Cities for Sustainable Development, Food Security, Nutrition and Climate Change”.
Participants are expected to share experiences of effective local practices, innovative strategies and lessons learned in addressing global challenges including climate change, food security and malnutrition.
On 21-22 February, I will join the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in organizing the 2019 Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, on the theme: “Emerging challenges to multilateralism: a parliamentary response”.
Furthermore, I will continue the close coordination and collaboration with the Presidents of the Security Council and the ECOSOC. In this context, I would like to refer to the High-Level Dialogue on 31 October 2018 with the participation of the Presidents of the General Assembly, ECOSOC and Security Council on “Renewing the Commitment to Multilateralism”. The meeting sent a strong call for greater coordination between the main bodies of the United Nations, within their respective mandates, and the objective of strengthening multilateralism.
I will continue along those lines and keep with the good practice of convening joint meetings with the UN’s main bodies.
In this context, I will be convening with the President of ECOSOC the first Joint Presidents’ Briefing on 31 January to update Member States on the efforts to date on the alignment of the work of the GA and ECOSOC with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The High-Level Event to celebrate the International Day on Multilateralism, according to GA resolution 73/127, on 24 April 2019, offers further opportunity to exchange views on the role of multilateralism and diplomacy in reinforcing the advancement of the three pillars of the UN, namely, sustainable development, peace and security and human rights, which are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.
The ongoing intergovernmental processes related to the revitalization of the General Assembly, Security Council Reform as well as the Alignment of the agendas of the General Assembly, the ECOSOC and their subsidiary bodies to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are also critical to a strengthened and revitalized UN. I will work closely with designated co-chairs and co-facilitators to make sure that meaningful progress is achieved.
Before concluding on this first priority, I would like to point out to the importance of the upcoming celebration of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations. I will appoint in the coming weeks co-facilitators to engage with you on details related to the theme, date and modalities of the commemoration Event.
Moving on to my Second priority, related to the implementation of new global agreements on refugees and migrants; following the adoption of the Global Compact in Marrakesh and its endorsement by the General Assembly, I have appointed two co-facilitators to conduct consultations with Member States on the practical modalities of the International Migration Review Forum. This Forum constitutes the primary intergovernmental global platform for Member States to discuss and share progress on the implementation of all aspects of the Global Compact.
I will organize – as mandated by the GA – a High Level Debate on International Migration and Development on 27 February. I will also continue raising awareness about the importance of an informed debate on international migration, which is based on facts and figures, to help Member States develop their own policies and support the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration.
We need also to continue raising the importance of ensuring appropriate assistance and protection to refugees, as well as appropriate burden- and responsibility-sharing amongst Member States.
My Third priority, is related to gender equality and the empowerment of women. As a Gender Champion, I am committed to strive towards gender parity within the General Assembly and gender equality in its outcomes, starting with my Office where gender equality is a reality.
I will convene a high-level event on Women in Power on 12 March, on the margin of the CSW session, which will be dedicated to the promotion of women’s leadership. It will bring together senior leaders from governments, the UN system, private sector and civil society, to share experiences and learn from success stories on advancing women’s leadership. It will also engage young women leaders to foster the intergenerational environment of dialogue between present and future leaders.
Furthermore, I have also established a Group of Gender Equality Leaders, as an informal Forum of eminent persons representing a variety of backgrounds and sharing the common goal of accelerating gender equality. I will convene the first meeting of the Group of Gender Equality Leaders on 29 January in collaboration with the UN Foundation. The meeting will be an opportunity to identify barriers that hinder women’s full participation and leadership in the public and private sectors and share best practices that can accelerate women’s empowerment.
Fourth, under the priority related to the creation of decent work opportunities, we need to build on the momentum created around the review of SDG 8 in the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) under the auspices of ECOSOC in July; as well as the commemoration of the Centenary of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
In close collaboration with ILO and ECOSOC, I will convene a high-level event on “The Future of Work for Decent Work”, on 10 April. This will be preceded on 9 April with a Town Hall on the interlinkages between decent work and Youth, Peace and Security, in the context of the ECOSOC Youth Forum.
My Fifth priority is dedicated to the protection of the environment. In this context, 2019 will be a decisive year as we near the first milestones of the 2030 Agenda.
I commit to continue encouraging all stakeholders to work collectively on climate and environmental action. We need to see climate change response as an opportunity to set a course for a better future for human beings and towards a greener, cleaner and more sustainable world.
COP24 outcomes in Katowice succeeded to put in place a roadmap for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The COP’s outcome goes far beyond equipping the Paris Agreement with the tools that will permit its implementation. It illustrates the willingness of leaders to address an issue of existential importance as well as the vitality of multilateralism.
Having said that, unfortunately climate change is accelerating faster than our efforts to address it, yet the world is currently not on track to achieve the Paris targets. Much more needs to be done to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.
In this context, as mandated by the General Assembly, I will host a High-level meeting, on 28 March, which will focus on the Protection of the Global Climate for Present and Future Generations of Humankind in the context of the 2030 Agenda. The meeting will build on the momentum from COP24 and pave the way for the Climate Summit to be convened by the Secretary General in September 2019. On 14 February, I will also convene a joint briefing with the SG’s Special Envoy for the Climate Summit to outline the roadmap for preparations towards the Climate Summit.
The other landmark aspect of my environmental action is related to “Plastic Pollution”. In this connection, I appreciate your partnership in “walking the talk” on the issue of plastic pollution by reducing single use plastics within missions and at the United Nations’ facilities.
As part of that initiative, I will be hosting, early this year, a briefing on the implementation of paragraph 14 of General Assembly Resolution 71/228, and the action plan presented by the Secretary-General for integrating sustainable development practices into Secretariat-wide operations and facilities management.
We all need to do our part to address plastic pollution. My humble contribution to this collective endeavor, will be a Festival to be co-organized with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and Norway, on 27 April 2019.
This festival is timed to coincide with the annual ‘Sailing Week’, in Antigua and Barbuda, and will be held in that country. The initiative is meant to raise awareness, celebrate successes, and push forward progress to address plastic pollution.
Sixth, under the rights of persons with disabilities priority, I am glad to inform you that the Steering Committee on Accessibility at the United Nations was launched in late 2018, at the eve of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities.
The Steering Committee aims at promoting accessibility for persons with disabilities at the United Nations premises.
I plan to launch the Campaign for the Universal Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this month. I will also host a High-Level Event on Persons with Disabilities in June. The support of Member States as well as other organizations and stakeholders will be critical to the success of our efforts to promote the rights of persons with disabilities.
Last but not least, under my Seventh priority related to peace and security, I will seize all existing mandates and events to promote issues related to conflict prevention, peacebuilding and sustaining peace, in order to build more peaceful and resilient societies, with a central role given to young people.
This was the case with the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit convened on 24 September. I have also actively engaged at the Africa Dialogue Series 2018, organized by the Office of Special Adviser on Africa, in October 2018, under the Theme “A Stronger AU-UN Partnership for Peace, Security and Development in Africa”.
Moving forward, I have been mandated to organize, on 13 September 2019, a High-Level Event on Culture of Peace. This meeting will provide a unique opportunity to give special attention to the appropriate and befitting observance of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.
I have been also mandated by Resolution 73/186 to convene, in close collaboration with UNODC, a high-level debate on the role of regional organizations in strengthening and implementing crime prevention initiatives and criminal justice responses.
Let me put a special focus on the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which remains a cornerstone of the success of multilateralism. One of the key conditions for achieving the SDGs is the need to build greater public understanding and support for it. The theme as well as priorities of the 73rd session of the General Assembly reflect this dynamic.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before concluding, let me put a special focus on the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which remains a cornerstone of the success of multilateralism.
One of the key conditions for achieving the SDGs is the need to build greater public understanding and support for it. The theme as well as priorities of the 73rd session of the General Assembly reflect this dynamic.
It is against this background that I have outlined as a key platform in all my engagements the importance of the 2030 Agenda to all people.
In this context, I would like to remind you that the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) will be convened for the first time under the auspices of the General Assembly (HLPF Summit) in September 2019 during the 74th session.
General Assembly Resolution 70/299 mandates that the HLPF under the auspices of ECOSOC to be convened in July and the HLPF Summit “be closely coordinated to ensure coherence and provide for mutually reinforcing linkages”. The two meetings must result in “only one negotiated political declaration, covering the different and complementary functions of both sessions of the forum”. The Forum on Financing, to be held in ECOSOC, and whose outcome is to feed into the HLPF Summit outcome, further presents opportunities for coordination in the work of the Assembly and between ECOSOC and the General Assembly.
To ensure coherence and synergies between the two HLPF processes, and the two on financing, I am working closely with the President of ECOSOC as well as co-facilitators.
We will also endeavor to ensure that the General Assembly high-level meetings, which will take place during the high-level week of the 74th session, namely the HLPF, FFD, Universal Health Coverage, Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and the Samoa Pathway are handled in a coherent and synergistic way. We will conduct all necessary preparations in a timely manner.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me now conclude by paying tribute to Member States, and representatives in New York for your dedication to the values of the United Nations and its parliament, the General Assembly. What we achieved in the main part of the session was due to the collective resolve, commitment and hard work of you all and I thank you for this. That same spirit will be of crucial importance as we tackle the heavy agenda of the next nine months. As the President of this Assembly, I am grateful to you and look forward to your support.
Thank you for your attention.