– As delivered –

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

12 September 2019


At the start of the 73rd session, after extensive consultations with Member States, I included revitalization of the United Nations, and specifically the General Assembly, as one of my main priorities. Throughout the session, deliberations on this topic have been held in formal, informal and innovative fora – from meetings of the Ad-Hoc Working Group and General Committee to Morning Mingas to the discussions with former PGAs that my Office organized in February and July, to capture lessons learned and support the transition to my successor.

I addressed the Ad-Hoc Working Group during its general debate (28 February), the thematic debate on the working methods of the Assembly (27 March) and the thematic debate dedicated to strengthening transparency, accountability and the institutional memory of the Office of the PGA (30 April).

I am pleased that this year we have made further progress and achieved tangible outcomes on a number of issues, including on streamlining the text of the Working Group’s resolution itself.

We have reduced the number of paragraphs to 62 operative paragraphs as opposed to 101 last year. This deserves applause! We now have a decision that the Secretary-General-designate shall take an oath of office before the Assembly during a swearing in ceremony using the text included in the Annex to the resolution.

We have also made progress on the alignment process, through the updated mapping assessment of SDG coverage, as well as initial efforts made during this session to develop possible criteria for identifying overlaps and duplication where they are found to exist. I would like to take this opportunity to thank H.E. Mrs. Marie Chatardová, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic, and H.E. Mrs. Maria Helena Lopes De Jesus Pires, Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste for their hard work and leadership in executing this mandate, as well as to all delegations for their constructive engagement.

Progress is also reflected in other elements of the resolution. This includes language on the need to limit the number of high-level events as well as side events in the margins of the General Debate. It is crucial that we preserve the primacy of the General Debate and leverage to the fullest this unique annual gathering of world leaders.

It includes the decision to ensure all meetings of the General Assembly and its subsidiary organs have accessible seating for representatives with disabilities – one of the recommendations of the Steering Committee I established on Accessibility, so ably chaired by H.E. Mr Walton Alfonso Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda and H.E. Mr Park Chull-joo, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea – and a request for the Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive report during the 74th session on further ways to improve the accessibility of the UN Headquarters.

I believe there is more we can and should do to enhance the effectiveness of the General Assembly, the first body mentioned in the UN Charter, our “parliament for humanity” and to ensure that its work is supported actively by “we the peoples”.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

And it includes the reference to the resolution on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations adopted earlier this year, under the guidance of H.E. Burhan Gafoor, Permanent Representative of Singapore and the former Ambassador of Iceland, Bergdis Ellertsdottir. The anniversary is a golden opportunity to strengthen our resolve to achieve the future we want, and the UN we need.

I was grateful that efforts to phase-out single-use plastics from UN Headquarters and to bring the work of the General Assembly to a wider audience were recognized in the text. The progress we have made was the result of highly collaborative efforts involving Member States, the UN system, external partners and my tireless and creative team.

Finally, I am delighted that the Working Group was able to conclude its work earlier than last year, after a series of formal and informal meetings, as well as several rounds of consultations. This is a step in the right direction.

And I express my sincere gratitude to H.E Ms. Sima Sami Bahous, Permanent Representative of Jordan and H.E. Mr. Michal Mlynar, Permanent Representative of Slovakia as Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly (AHWG). I congratulate and I thank your able leadership and your tireless work.


I believe there is more we can and should do to enhance the effectiveness of the General Assembly, the first body mentioned in the UN Charter, our “parliament for humanity” and to ensure that its work is supported actively by “we the peoples”.

I hope that everyone entering the GA Hall will be reminded of our duty to them through the poster we created to commemorate the signing of the UN Charter on 26 June. The poster – and the symbolic signatures of recommitment – will be displayed outside the Hall this week and remain in situ throughout the 75th anniversary of the UN.  Let us remember this commitment when leaders come to speak in this Hall in a few days’ time and work together for a stronger United Nations that better serves “we the peoples”.