– As delivered –

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

24 April 2019

Esteemed Ministers,

Excellencies,

Dear María Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary General,

Ladies and gentlemen:

It is a true privilege to preside over the first commemoration of the “International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace”.

I wish to acknowledge the Non-Aligned Movement and all Member States who furthered and supported the declaration of this international day.

The unprecedented message issued by all the Main Organs of the UN reflects the clear coincidence of our determination to preserve and strengthen multilateralism.

Excellencies,

Today I will address three essential points.

Firstly, I will refer to global challenges and the challenges of multilateralism.

We have heard before, in this very Assembly, that multilateralism is being questioned and that we are facing a deficit of confidence in our institutions in general and our Organization in particular.

This is happening because we live in an increasingly polarized world that is becoming more fragmented and has more conflicts and problems to solve, ranging from hunger to humanitarian crises, from climate change to terrorism.

This correlates to the re-emergence of extreme nationalisms that question the validity and the very existence of a rules-based international order.

Excellencies,

Today, supranational and multidimensional challenges have multiplied.

We know, for instance, that no country can escape the devastating effects of climate change, which is an existential threat for humanity and the planet.

650 million people live in extreme poverty and more than 821 million suffer from hunger.

Furthermore, women in all countries, without exception, continue to suffer multiple forms of discrimination and violence only because they are women.

Similarly, geopolitical tensions and conflicts have not disappeared; wars continue to take the lives of the innocent, women, girls and boys.

Terrorism persists; it does not respect any borders or nationalities, or age, or faith. Nothing justifies terrorism.

Relating to this scourge, I must reiterate, once more, my grief and solidarity with the Government and the people of Sri Lanka and the victims of the atrocious terrorist attacks this Easter. I firmly condemn these events. I dedicate this international day and our efforts to those victims and all victims of violence.

Excellencies,

We will not be able to restore people’s trust in multilateralism if we exclude those we work for, those who along with us, the States, can provide solutions and undertake commitments.

Our Peoples long for an inclusive Global Governance.

This is why “bringing the UN closer to people and bringing the people closer to the UN” has been a constant priority of my Presidency.

To achieve this, we must learn to communicate better with people outside this building, which leads me to my second point.

I wish to highlight the legacy of multilateralism and the diplomacy of peace for our peoples and nations.

Our Organization has created fundamental agreements, with a universal scope, that have made the world safer, healthier, fairer and with more opportunities for all.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we just celebrated its 70th anniversary last December, emerged from the General Assembly, as did the conventions, compacts and statements related to peace, human rights and development, including the 2030 Agenda.

In these last seven decades, the United Nations have been fundamental in the peaceful solution of conflicts and controversies. The United Nations have saved millions of lives.

There is no region in which the UN has not contributed to the consolidation of peace. The peacekeeping missions operate in harsh environments, protecting the civilian population and the most vulnerable.

The deployed personnel helps, everyday, to pacify and promote reconciliation.

Without a question, the United Nations have transformed the destiny of humanity.

As the main platform for dialogue and agreements between sovereign States, it has had a real impact in health, security, well being and the dignity of millions of people.

The UN’s permanent search for agreements and promoting cooperation while respecting the diversity and the differences among States is the core of our daily work.

With Resolution 73/127, this General Assembly confirmed the faith of our peoples in the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter and reiterated the relevance of multilateralism and international law to further the common objective of a lasting and sustained diplomacy-driven peace.

To face the questionings, the answer is more multilateralism, more cooperation. To face mistrust, the answer is more efficiency and more transparency. To face violence, the answer is more diplomacy and more dialogues. To face unilateralism, the answer is more solidarity and a greater collective action.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

To achieve and sustain peace and sustainable development, multilateralism is not only the most efficient way; it is the only possible way.

We must put an end to the false idea that multilateralism undermines the sovereignty of the States when in fact it does the opposite, it reinforces it. Therefore, I repeat that sentence in each of my activities, inside and outside this Organization. I’ll say it again: no country, no matter how powerful, can solve, by itself, the challenges that we are facing.

Most world leaders share this vision and declared so during the General Debate last September when they made the call to strengthen a rules-based international system and our Organization.

And that same support is the one expressed for multilateral diplomacy in the meeting I convened, last February, with seven former Presidents of the General Assembly.

We have achieved a lot, it is true, but we still have a long road ahead of us.

Thirdly, I will refer to the need to revitalize our Organization and bolster confidence in multilateralism, for which I would also like to make a call to action: achieving a stronger and more effective Organization is both a possibility and a necessity.

Excellencies,

From this day forward, every April the 24th, each year, will be an opportunity to evaluate the contribution of our Organization to humanity.

And to always obtain better results, we must have a more effective, more transparent and more agile Organization that genuinely responds to the aspirations of the peoples.

We must also achieve a fairer and more equitable international order.

Doubling our efforts to turn the commitments we have undertaken into a reality is crucial: eradicating poverty and reducing inequality; ensuring health and education for all persons; protecting the environment; and ensuring peace. And we must reach the most vulnerable and the excluded first, those who are still immersed in mistrust, fear and poverty.

We must make the United Nations relevant for all.

Yesterday, to broaden our dialogue, I convened an informal Forum on “the importance of multilateralism”. The exchange was very substantial, but I would like to particularly highlight one of the conclusions: if we achieve a tangible progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, that reality, for the people on the ground, will improve their lives and it will be stronger than any speech.

Let us be brave enough to change and improve: our work methods, the quality of the resolutions we approve and, of course, their implementation.

Let us be brave enough to materialize and execute the reforms we agree on. Let us make the Organization and all its Organs function like clockwork, with the same gears.  

Let us support the revitalization process of the most democratic and representative body: the General Assembly. Let us take the most appropriate measures to modernize its structures and the daily work of multilateral diplomacy.

In merely two more years, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. That will be a privileged occasion to reinforce the founding basis of this Organization like: hoping to achieve a world without war, without hunger and with less suffering, in which all peoples are free and have the same well-being and development opportunities.

Excellencies,

We have the unique opportunity to tip the scales to the just side of history.

To face the questionings, the answer is more multilateralism, more cooperation. To face mistrust, the answer is more efficiency and more transparency. To face violence, the answer is more diplomacy and more dialogues. To face unilateralism, the answer is more solidarity and a greater collective action.

Finally, as President of the General Assembly, I would like to assure you that this mission will continue to be at the center of my efforts: achieving more dialogue, more collaboration, more agreements and more actions.

Especially more actions to ensure a more peaceful, more inclusive, less unequal and more humane world, a world we have been dreaming of for 73 years and that we can still turn into a reality.

Thank you.