– As delivered –

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

14 June 2019

Your Excellency, Inga Ronda King, President of ECOSOC,

Your Excellency, Mr. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President-elect of the 74th session of the General Assembly,

My dear Friend, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General,

Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin of DESA,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very grateful for this opportunity to brief Member States on this September’s High-Level Political Forum under the auspices of the General Assembly – the SDG Summit, as we know it – and to share with you my vision, not only for that event, but for High-Level Week as a whole.

Throughout this session, I have sought to act on Member States’ desire for greater coherence in our activities. High-Level Week is an important strategic opportunity to advance that agenda and create an overarching roadmap for the crucial decade ahead.

I am grateful, therefore, to be joined by His Excellency, Mr. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President-Elect of the 74th session of the General Assembly; the President of ECOSOC; the Deputy Secretary-General, Deputy to the Special Envoy of the Climate Summit, and the co-facilitators for the high-level meetings that will take place in September.

We are united in our objectives for High-Level Week, and in our efforts to make it count for the world’s people.


This year’s High-Level Week comes at a moment when the future of humanity hangs in the balance. We have just one year to turn the tide on carbon emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change over the next decade. That decade must also see us deliver on our promise to build a safer, fairer and more sustainable world for all people, everywhere. High-Level Week must put us on track to achieving these goals or risk further discontent among our people and peril to our multilateral rules-based order.

At the High-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage on the 23 September, we must take steps to ensure that the 3.5 billion people who currently lack adequate healthcare are provided for in the future. That day we must also use the Climate Action Summit to set out how we plan to meet the looming “carbon deadline”.

On 24-25 September, we must generate similar momentum for the whole of the 2030 Agenda at the SDG Summit – followed up, the next day, with progress on closing the 2.5 trillion-dollar annual funding gap during the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development.

On 27 September, we must put the needs of small-island developing states front and centre as we review the SAMOA Pathway.  And we must use the General Debate – the only global forum of its kind – to reinforce all of the above.

In addition, on 26 September, the General Assembly will hold the annual high-level meeting to mark the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons – an existential threat that puts at risk everything else we are seeking to do. We will have an important opportunity during the High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace on 13 September to highlight the interconnection between peace and sustainable development and lay the ground work for High Level Week. 

As with all events during the High-Level Week, I urge you to come to the SDG Summit prepared to announce acceleration measures and specific, targeted next steps that respond to the urgency of the challenges we face, and give due consideration to trade-offs and synergies.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

Dear colleagues,

These meetings are not stand-alone events. They are inextricably linked strands of DNA that make up our “blueprint” for the world. We will not leverage their potential unless we see them as a continuum of opportunities to advance our shared aspirations.

We must use High-Level Week to evaluate where, how and why we have made progress, and use hard data and evidence to determine which policies have worked – and which have not. This should inform our next steps – what are the most transformative actions we can take? The Secretary-General’s mantra for the Climate Action Summit should apply to all events during High-Level Week: let us come not with speeches, but with concrete commitments and plans to accelerate implementation.

This is our opportunity to show that multilateralism works, that even in challenging times, we can work together to produce tangible improvements in people’s lives. That is how we will restore faith in governments and institutions: by demonstrating that we can deliver on our promises, that we have listened to the disillusioned and that we have stepped up our efforts in response.

We all know, of course, that the 2030 Agenda cannot be realized by governments alone. Member States, of course, are in the driving seat, but we need to do much more to engage and equip other stakeholders, from large companies to small NGOs, youth leaders to indigenous elders.

We speak warmly about partnerships but we are still nowhere near where we need to be for the 2030 Agenda to be a truly universal agenda. This should be a priority during High-Level Week.


Let me now focus on the SDG Summit, and start by expressing my deep gratitude to H.E. Mr. Ruben Escalante Hasbun, the Permanent Representative of El Salvador, for his leadership in guiding informal consultations on the format of the Summit.

My proposals are based on his excellent work, as well as on the bilateral conversations I have had with some of you, and with the incoming President of the General Assembly.

As ever, I am also guided by resolutions and decisions of the Assembly, including decision 73/522 that no parallel meetings can be held. And for the Summit’s thematic focus, I drew on the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Progress Report and the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) – which provide the main inputs for the event.

The results are as follows:

The Summit will be held at the level of Heads of State and Government, in line with GA resolution 67/290. I encourage all of you to be represented at that level, and also to see your leaders’ participation across High-Level Week in a holistic manner. Again, in full respect for the GA resolution 67/290, all meetings of the forum will provide for the full and effective participation of all States Members of the United Nations and States members of specialized agencies.

In response to Member State concerns, the programme has been designed to maximise the number of speakers while still operating within the timings set out by GA decision 73/522. It includes an opening session, two plenary sessions for statements by groups of Member States, six hour-long thematic “Leaders Dialogues”, and a closing session.

The Leaders Dialogues will allow Heads of State and Government to share national experiences and provide political guidance on implementation – as well as address specific issues identified by the two reports I mentioned earlier. These are:

  1. Megatrends Impacting the Achievement of the SDGs
  2. Accelerating the Achievement of the SDGs: Critical Entry Points
  3. Measures to Leverage Progress Across the SDGs
  4. Localizing the SDGs
  5. Partnerships for Sustainable Development
  6. The 2020-2030 Vision

Each Dialogue will be co-moderated by two Heads of State or Government, representing one developing and one developed state. They will feature 12 high-level country representatives. Priority will be given to Heads of State and Government, with due regard for geographic and gender balance.

To ensure diversity of perspectives, one high-level representative from a relevant UN entity or intergovernmental organization, and one representative of major groups and other stakeholders will also be invited to participate in each session. We will be working closely with DGACM and DESA on the registration of speakers.

Dear colleagues,

The mandated outcome for the SDG Summit is the Political Declaration, a consensual declaration, which stands up to the level of ambition of the 2030 Agenda and opens up new avenues to reach the SDGs. 

As with all events during the High-Level Week, I urge you to come to the SDG Summit prepared to announce acceleration measures and specific, targeted next steps that respond to the urgency of the challenges we face, and give due consideration to trade-offs and synergies.

Quality is more important than quantity if we are to step up implementation on all fronts at the national, regional and global levels. I know that all of you are already working hard to make progress on the 2030 Agenda. But more can and must be done.

I also encourage you to register your commitments on the SDG Summit website, and to log your partnerships for SIDS on the online platform in support of the SAMOA Pathway.

And there will be further opportunities to publicize actions on platforms created by the Department for Global Communications. These are excellent opportunities to showcase your efforts to the public – at home and around the world – and to build a head of steam as we enter the final decade for delivery.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our commitment to “Leave No One Behind” is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda, and a key focus of the SDG Progress Report. But too many of us – women, children, persons with disabilities, minorities, indigenous and rural communities – are still left out. We must work harder to ensure that everyone reaps the benefits of the SDGs. I have therefore decided to include, as one of the recommendations from the consultations, a series of short videos in the SDG Summit programme, highlighting the needs of different groups of people, including the most vulnerable. I look forward to the support of the Department for Global Communication to make this possible.

In the coming weeks, we will provide additional information on innovations such as the SDG Acceleration Hub in the SDG Media Zone and the “Quote” cards where we will invite Heads of State and Government to express their support for the Summit to be used on social media in the lead-up to September.

As we continue to further elaborate the plans for the SDG Summit, I commit to providing you with timely updates to facilitate the preparation of your capitals. I truly hope that these arrangements will ensure the SDG Summit is the platform for progress we need it to be.

Indeed, every meeting during High-Level Week is an opportunity to make our vision for humanity a reality. The six days from 23 to 28 September hold the key to delivering on the promises we have made. Let us use them.

Thank you.