– As Prepared –

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

26 March 2019

Good morning, Excellencies,

Let me begin by thanking Ambassador Mohamed Edrees, Permanent Representative of Egypt, for the kind introductory remarks and for the invitation to this meeting of the Arab Group.

I would like to also seize those opportunity to also thank H.E Mr. Maged Abdelfattah Abdelaziz, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States at the United Nations, for his continued coordination and support to my office.

This group has been very supportive of my Presidency and you all are very good friends and colleagues; some of you long standing. Thank you so much for your support.

I am very grateful to have this opportunity to interact with you on issues of interest to the United Nations. Together, we have made significant progress on the priorities we set ourselves for the 73rd session.  As we begin the last six months of my Presidency, there are still very important items on the agenda to make the UN relevant for all people.

First, decent work. Final preparations are underway for the High-Level Event on the Future of Work, which will also commemorate the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization. The event will take place on 10 April. It will focus on decent work and the future of work.  The aim is to share best practices, concrete solutions and recommendations ahead of the review of Sustainable Development Goal 8 at the High-Level Political Forum in July.

This issue has particular resonance in the Arab region where unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, is high. While the regional  unemployment rate is projected to remain stable at 7.3 per cent in the years 2018–20 (ILO, World Employment and Social Outlook 2019),  youth unemployment rates in MENA, at 21 percent in the Middle East and 25 percent in North Africa, are higher than any other region in the world. (World Bank).

The 10 April event gives all Member States an opportunity to address an issue that is crucial to inclusive growth, robust social protection, social stability and  sustainable development.

Second, persons with disabilities. The promise of the 2030 Agenda is to leave no one behind. This means dramatically improving outcomes for people with disabilities, who are among the most marginalized groups. This has been a personal priority for many years, and in June, I will hold a High-Level Event on sustainable development for persons with disabilities to coincide with the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Third, environment and climate action. I hope all of you are attending the High-Level Meeting on Climate and Sustainable Development for All on Thursday and Friday. This is a crucial opportunity to make progress ahead of the September Climate Summit and the Dubai preparatory meeting. I am also working with Antigua & Barbuda and Norway on a high-profile festival in Antigua in early June as part of my campaign against plastic pollution. We are still looking for partners and I hope that some of you will join this exciting initiative.

Fourth, migration and refugees. The number of persons forced to flee their homes now stands at nearly 70 million. By 2030, ten times that number could be displaced due to water scarcity alone. According to the Carnegie Centre for International Peace, in 2017 40% of refugees originated from the Arab region. The Arab region hosts a high proportion of refugees world wide and I commend your States for your positive approach.  

By recognizing the need to support host countries, the world has acknowledged the burden that such countries carry on behalf of our international community. The discussions for the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration last year were not always easy and I am acutely aware that, within this Group too, there are different perspectives on the migration compact in particular. But I hope that as we start to see the benefits of implementation, all states will feel able to embrace it.

Fifth, gender equality. March was a busy month for my office – with the Commission on the Status of Women, International Women’s Day and my High-Level Event on Women in Power. Throughout my Presidency, I have made the case that empowering women and girls is as close as we can get to a “magic formula” for peace and sustainable development. All evidence points that way. We must find common ground  to ensure that the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration marks the turning point for our commitment to ensure women’s empowerment and achieve gender equality.

Sixth, youth, peace and security. Nearly 600 million young people – a third of the global youth population – live in fragile or conflict-affected states. They are crucial actors on the ground but they are still overlooked in peace processes. Earlier this month, I had the privilege of meeting youth representatives – including some from the Arab region – at the First International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes in Helsinki. I am now even more convinced that their inclusion is vital. I will be convening an interactive dialogue on youth, peace and security on 8 April, during the ECOSOC Youth Forum.

Finally, revitalizing the UN – making it more relevant. I am sure you will have heard me speak about the importance of reinvigorating our commitment to multilateralism – at a time when we need it more than ever. But strengthening multilateralism also means continuing to work on making the UN more effective, transparent and accountable.  On 24 April, we will mark the first International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace. This could be an excellent opportunity to consider these issues in more detail, especially as Member States begin to discuss plans for the 75th anniversary of the UN next year.

Dear friends,

Many of you have been involved in the activities I have spoken about, and I thank you warmly for your support. I realise I have given you a lot of dates for future activities – my office will be glad to provide you with more information. I look forward now to your comments, questions and ideas.