– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly
8 April 2019
I am pleased to address the first meeting of the intergovernmental process to define modalities related to the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations.
I would like to express my appreciation to the Co-Facilitators, Ambassador Gafoor of Singapore and Ambassador Ellertsdóttir of Iceland, for their leadership on this important issue. I encourage all Member States to extend their full support to them.
As we discuss the modalities for the commemoration, it is vital that we do not see our task as solely procedural. We must ensure that we rise to the serious challenges we face, and to the opportunities presented by the 75th anniversary.
Dear friends, Excellencies,
This is a critical moment – for the United Nations and for the world. We sometimes speak of this moment as “a crossroads” – where things could go either way. But it feels more and more like a tipping point – as though we are on the brink of irreparable damage to our rules-based international system.
We are witnessing the rise of nationalist populism and extremist ideologies, as the world becomes more multipolar but also more polarized. We have seen the impact of this trend on hard-won multilateral agreements and institutions: for example the Paris climate agreement; the global compact on migration; the Human Rights Council, the WTO, arms control instruments – these are just a few examples.
We are seeing long-established international laws and multilateral practices – which have delivered so much for the world since 1945 – devalued by increasing unilateralism and ad hocery. This is particularly dangerous for the smaller states that make up the majority of the UN’s membership.
And we are seeing a growing disconnect between people, governments and institutions. Our citizens expect us to keep the promises we have made, through the 2030 Agenda for example. But they are losing faith in our capacity and will to deliver.
Unless we reverse these trends, we risk damaging the values, principles, laws and systems that have been the bedrock of the international community for more than seven decades.
The world badly needs an effective United Nations: More than 1.4 billion people, including one third of all young people, live in fragile and conflict-affected areas. Nearly 70 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Almost two billion people are engaged in informal and precarious work. The stakes are high, even without the rapid changes we are seeing in technology and demography, and as a result of climate change.María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés
The world badly needs an effective United Nations:
More than 1.4 billion people, including one third of all young people, live in fragile and conflict-affected areas. Nearly 70 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Almost two billion people are engaged in informal and precarious work. The stakes are high, even without the rapid changes we are seeing in technology and demography, and as a result of climate change.
Today, there is virtually no challenge – or opportunity – that does not require cooperation between nations.
We must use the 75th anniversary of the UN to galvanize commitment to multilateralism, and to change the way we do business. It is a chance to make the UN more effective, more transparent, more accountable and more relevant to “we the peoples”.
We can start by using the preparatory process itself to strengthen confidence and trust in the UN – by engaging all segments of society, especially young people, in a multi-stakeholder process to complement the intergovernmental one. After all, if we want to ensure the anniversary is forward-looking, youth must have a key role.
And if we want to ensure the anniversary is meaningful, it must result in more than warm words.
Of course, words matter a great deal – particularly at this moment. It will be important to ensure the commemoration reaffirms the values and principles set out in the Charter. But the anniversary is an opportunity to build on the UN’s achievements, and on the agendas and action plans that Member States have already agreed.
In the last years, we have seen many important reports and reviews of the UN’s three pillars. The commemoration is an opportunity to consider the most transformative next steps in each of these areas, and work towards realising them.
The commemoration is an opportunity to give further impetus to the ongoing reform process – with the new peace and security architecture, the management changes, and changes to the development system.
It is also an opportunity to make progress on the revitalization of the General Assembly, and reform of the Security Council – as well as aligning the agendas of the GA, ECOSOC and their subsidiary bodies to the 2030 Agenda. Achieving the SDGs is vital to making the UN relevant for all. We must deliver on our commitment to end poverty and build healthy, peaceful and sustainable societies.
And we must rethink and refresh how we communicate with the public we serve. Because we are losing the communications battle. The 75th anniversary is a golden opportunity to create a new and convincing narrative about the irreplaceable role of multilateralism and its main home: the United Nations.
I encourage you to be creative and ambitions in your deliberations today. We need to think out of the box. We need to see the process itself as part of the commemoration – a way to signal we can do things differently and better; a way to engage youth, civil society, academia and other stakeholders; a way to ensure a meaningful outcome.
I invite you to see this process as a full overhaul of our multilateral engine; as our chance to recalibrate the work we do; to refine and adjust our working methods; to refine and boost our narrative, to convince and convert the sceptics, and to multiply our supporters.
Thank you for your kind attention.