– As delivered –

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

21 February 2019

Honorable Representative Gabriela Cuevas Barrón, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Esteemed Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Distinguished Members of Parliament,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I warmly welcome you to this event that brings together representatives of Parliaments around the world.

I am particularly very pleased to be able to share this podium with Representative Gabriela Cuevas who, in addition of hailing from my region, Latin America and the Caribbean, is only the second woman to hold the Presidency of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 130 years.

This reflects that, although we are making progress, we are still far from achieving the full exercise of equality between men and women. I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all parliament members who are women. Please receive all my recognition and full support in the functions that you perform in your countries.


Dear women in parliament: your task is not an easy one. When I was elected as President of the General Assembly I dedicated my appointment to women who, due to the fact of being in positions of power or belonging to the world of politics, are victims of a particular form of violence. For that reason, I convened, on 12th March a High Level Event on Women in power.  I hope to welcome you all.


We must take advantage of the role of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and use it as a platform for dialogue and cooperation.

The topic for the debates of this hearing is vitally important for the United Nations and for each of the Member States whose Parliament you represent.

Distinguished Members of Parliament and guests,

I will refer to two main elements: first, the global situation and the challenges to multilateralism; and second, the role of Parliaments in this context.

First, allow me to remind you that our Organization was born out of the ashes of the Second World War. Those who devised the United Nations clearly understood that multilateralism was not an option, but the only way to achieve peace.

With this Organization, we have had certainly extraordinary achievements in peace, security, development and human rights. The United Nations have changed the reality of millions of people.

However, global challenges are becoming more and more complex and require a greater degree of cooperation to overcome them. To solve them, we need to strengthen multilateralism and revitalize this Organization.

Today, we are concerned to see the re-emergence of isolationist forces and extreme nationalisms that question the efficiency and even the very existence of a rules-based international order, cooperation and dialogue.

This must lead us to a profound meditation. In times in which we face serious problems such as global warming, which endanger the very continuity of human life, the international community should be united, not fragmented and willing to take collective action, not unilateral responses. 

Additionally, in a time characterized by globalization and fast technological changes, the unilateral approach is unsustainable, and isolationism is unfeasible. Terrorism, transnational organized crime, the nuclear threat, pandemics and humanitarian and migratory crises, or even Climate Change, which I have mentioned before, cannot be solved by a single country, no matter how powerful.

The United Nations, even with its shortcomings, is still the best system that we have to address our shared challenges, since it is the most universal forum to dialogue, negotiate and promote cooperation.

As President of the main, most democratic and representative body of this Organization, which is also, as I mentioned before, the “Parliament of humanity,” I invite you to debate and ponder on how you can contribute to preserve the main tool that we have to maintain peace and promote friendship relationships and cooperation among nations.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

During the General Debate, last September, most Heads of State and Government reiterated the need of a rules-based international system in which the United Nations can maintain its prevailing role and move closer to people.

Only two weeks ago, I convened the first meeting of former Presidents of the General Assembly. The meeting, in addition to being the first one to gather eight Presidents in 73 years, was a unique opportunity to broaden dialogue and initiatives so that the efforts of multilateralism can be translated into a real, substantial and tangible improvement in the living conditions of the peoples and nations of the world.

I will take the opportunity at the High Level Event on the international Day of multilateralism and diplomacy for peace, which will be held on 24th April, to renew the commitment of all Governments and Parliaments of the world to the rules-based international system and to strengthen this Organization.

Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, the most ambitious plan of action to eradicate poverty, in all its forms and dimensions, would not be possible without cooperation and multilateral action. Without a sense of common responsibility, we would not have reached the Paris Agreement either.

The same is applicable to the Global Compact for a Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which was adopted by the vast majority of Member States, last December. These instruments, just like most human rights instruments, were adopted by the General Assembly, which is, as I call it, the Parliament of humanity.

However, your firm support, dear Members of Parliament, is vital to ensure a greater and better implementation of the agreements at national and local levels. This leads me to my second point: the necessary parliamentary response.

When Parliaments mobilize support for matters of international relevance, such as gender equality, the participation of young people, disarmament or preventing conflicts, we can guarantee better results in the field and, therefore, strengthen the response to global challenges.

Your legislative work is fundamental to incorporate international agreements and instruments into national legislations and to approve sufficient budgets so that Governments can respond to the commitments they have acquired, like the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, which are part of the 2030 Agenda.

Likewise, Parliaments must act so that the interests of the people they represent, especially the most vulnerable, can reach multilateral organizations. That is why it is very important for this house to hold this annual event and for Members of Parliament to participate more and more in the delegations that attend the United Nations meetings.

I especially celebrate this meeting since I believe that the work you do in your countries contains many of the central aspects needed to restore the trust in institutions, including multilateral ones.

As we bring the UN closer to people to efficiently respond to their demands and needs, we will be able to overcome the challenges of multilateralism.

The dialogue that you will have on subjects like gender equality, financing the United Nations system, preventing conflicts, justice and environmental sustainability, among others, will fuel the debates that we will hold from this point forward.

Distinguished representatives,

We must unite all voices to defend the relevance of multilateralism and understand that it is not a threat for national sovereignty. On the contrary, it is the best way to ensure national interests in an interdependent world.

As President of the main, most democratic and representative body of this Organization, which is also, as I mentioned before, the “Parliament of humanity,” I invite you to debate and ponder on how you can contribute to preserve the main tool that we have to maintain peace and promote friendship relationships and cooperation among nations.

I wish you have very fruitful work sessions. You can count on my full support.

Thank you.