– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
13 January 2020
I am happy to see you all after a well-deserved holiday season. I trust you all had a great time with your families and ready for the resumed session. I wish you all a happy and fulfilled 2020.
It is my pleasure to brief you today on the priorities for the remaining part of the 74th Session.
First, I am grateful for the cooperation I have enjoyed since my assumption of the presidency. I appreciate the human and financial resources, as well as moral support, that member states have given to the Office of the President of the General Assembly.
As of today, thirteen Member States have contributed the sum of Four Million, Four Hundred and Thirty-Two Thousand, One Hundred and Fifty-Two Dollars to the OPGA Trust Fund. There are also twenty-nine Advisers seconded to the office. I am pleased that there are still commitments from Member States to do even more.
In addition, I have enjoyed a special relationship with the monthly Presidents of the Security Council, President of the Economic and Social Council as well as the Secretary-General, and I am grateful for their warm partnership and support.
The aforementioned, coupled with the coordination with, and support from, the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM), Department of Global Communications (DGC), Protocol, as well as other United Nations offices and Agencies, has ensured that the OPGA was able to discharge its duties satisfactorily this far.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
During the main session of the 74th Session, we held a High-Level Week graced by our leaders who, apart from taking part in the General Debate, participated in the Climate Action Summit, the High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals Summit. They also attended the commemoration of the Convention on the rights of the Child, the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, the International Day of the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and the Mid-Term review of the SAMOA Pathway. In addition, their active engagement at the 2019 High-Level Week has further reinforced the fact that they attach much importance to multilateral cooperation, despite the fears of some regarding its deterioration.
The Six committees of the General Assembly were also able to conclude their work; even with some difficulties in some cases. I will not rehash details of that work, as you must have read those reports. However, it may be useful to note that:
• the First Committee adopted 64% of its resolutions by recorded votes;
• the Second Committee was united on the 2030 Agenda and the need to accelerate its implementation;
• the Third Committee recommitted to equality and human rights;
• the Fourth Committee worked to ensure a landmark guideline on the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space activities;
• the Fifth Committee approved the sum of US$3.07 billion for the year 2020, in its first annual budget since 1973; and
• the Sixth Committee, in line with tradition, was able to conclude its work by consensus.
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I have flagged these examples to make the point that though the processes were difficult, we did not fail. Indeed, we succeeded. Nonetheless, particularly in the First Committee, we would have been more comfortable with making such decisions via consensus.
I am not under any illusion that all that was decided is resolved, or that we will not have differences in the remaining part of the Session. I note the reservations by some delegations on specific issues; and it is my hope that we can resolve them amicably. I urge us all that when our positions differ on issues, we should engage even more in dialogue, as this is the very essence of our Organization. Also, we should always work and bear in mind that as member states – large or small, prosperous or not, peaceful or seeking peace – our destinies are entwined. None of us is successful until all of us are.
While the United Nations has, sadly, failed in some instances, and we know these instances very well, there is no doubt that overall, it has been a force for good all these years. Among other things, it has successfully ensured that a war near the scale of the one that led to its creation has not occurred. It gave needed impetus to decolonization. It supported the struggle to end apartheid. It gave strong leadership for all conventions in support of human rights. It has been the main platform for partnerships for development, and the resolution of disputes.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
As I have often reiterated, our priority for the 74th Session is the implementation of existing mandates, Peace & Security, Poverty Eradication, Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Climate Action and Inclusion. All these are anchored on the already agreed SDGs. We are determined to galvanize partnerships in implementing the “Roadmap” which we shared with you. Accordingly, we will focus on the following issues in the coming weeks:
i. Peace and Security – International Peace and Security is key to achieving the SDGs, as no development can happen in the absence of peace. The need to work harder on achieving peace and security is evident in the current tragedy, which has led to the loss of 176 lives. If ever diplomacy should achieve its purpose, this is one urgent area it must show its face. The Security Council as well as other relevant actors ought to prioritize getting a lasting solution to this. This crisis can also not be dissociated from the larger situation in the Middle East. It is thus critical that we find solutions to the Israel – Palestine conflict or question, as with those in Syria, Yemen, Libya and others. I will continue to flag these issues with the Presidents of the Security Council and the Secretary-General, as with all who are able to assist in this regard.
ii. International Day of Education – I will convene an event to celebrate the second International Day of Education on 24th January 2020. It will have in attendance various stakeholders in the education system, including governments, the private sector, students and civil society organizations. It will focus on transforming the education system through partnerships and provide an avenue for stakeholders to network and share best practices. Ensuring access to free and quality primary and secondary education, as well as affordable and inclusive vocational and technical education, is important, and I will continue to reach out to you beyond the International Day of Education on how best we can continue to collaborate in achieving this. Already, the Morning Dialogue which we had in relation to education, has provided us useful ideas, encouraging us to push further.
iii. Zero Hunger – I will host an event in February to discuss the topic “Targeting Hunger: South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Transforming Agriculture”. It is my hope that member states will use this opportunity to deepen discussion on how to strengthen cooperation to achieve Zero Hunger, particularly through partnerships in the agricultural sector. We can end hunger and help to eradicate poverty if we deepen cooperation in modernizing the agricultural sector, particularly as it concerns availability and affordability of industrial machineries, irrigation systems, high yield seedlings and access to finance. Throughout the Session, I will also be following up on the conclusions we reach during that event.
iv. Ocean Conference – There will be an Ocean Conference from 2nd to 6th June 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal. A preparatory meeting to determine the themes of the seven interactive dialogues will be held from 4th to 5th February. The preparatory meeting will also provide initial inputs for the declaration to be adopted at the end of the Conference. As I have communicated to you all earlier, the Permanent Representatives of Denmark and Palau have been appointed to co-facilitate this process. As always, I count on your engagement with them to assure success, which is for all of us.
v. Biodiversity Summit – The Biodiversity Summit is a mandated event that the Permanent Representatives of Costa Rica and Italy will co-facilitate its preparatory process. They will convene their first meeting on Thursday, 16 January, and I urge you to render all necessary support to them, as we must do our best to tackle the environmental emergencies that we currently face. Accordingly, we must build on the political momentum generated by the Paris Agreement in 2015 and the Climate Summit last September, to accelerate action to save the planet from the peril that inaction can unleash. This is particularly so, in the light of our disappointment that we could not reach consensus on important issues during COP25 in Madrid.
vi. High Level Dialogue on Desertification – I will convene a High-Level dialogue in collaboration with the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Combating Desertification on 9 June. The dialogue will aim to review the progress made in the fight against desertification, land degradation and drought.
vii. Initiative on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity – Together with the President of ECOSOC, I am currently working on an initiative on Financial Integrity. This is in line with the General Assembly resolution which mandated the President of the General Assembly and the President of ECOSOC to give due consideration to the need to promote international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows, with a view to foster sustainable development. More information will follow.
viii. Inclusion – Inclusion is key to our world. Exclusion has been a major source of instability in all societies. There is absolutely no reason to exclude anyone – whether they are a man or a woman, youth, disabled, or because of their faith, color or where they are from. Accordingly, I urge all delegations to be involved actively in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the 4th World Conference on Women; 20th anniversary of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security; as well as the 10th anniversary of UN Women, among others.
Also, on inclusion, I will organize a High-Level Youth Plenary on 31 March 2020, in conjunction with the President of ECOSOC. This will give youths an opportunity to interact among themselves as well as with other stakeholders, including member states and UN officials. There is no doubt that we have to devise a strategy to tackle the immediate problem that our youths face, such as lack of quality education, unemployment and underemployment, among others.
ix. United Nations at 75 – The planning to commemorate the United Nations at 75 is an important one and it has since begun. The anniversary gives us the opportunity to evaluate the past 74 years of the United Nations’ existence and decide the direction we want to go in the next years. While the United Nations has, sadly, failed in some instances, and we know these instances very well, there is no doubt that overall, it has been a force for good all these years. Among other things, it has successfully ensured that a war near the scale of the one that led to its creation has not occurred. It gave needed impetus to decolonization. It supported the struggle to end apartheid. It gave strong leadership for all conventions in support of human rights. It has been the main platform for partnerships for development, and the resolution of disputes.
I have appointed the Permanent Representatives of Qatar and Sweden as co-facilitators for this important process, for the preparations for the commemoration, and I am certain they will consult with member states in the discharge of this duty.
It is also important to mention that the review of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, Alignment and reform of the Organization, including that of the Security Council will continue to be of utmost importance. I have appointed co-facilitators for each of these processes and I am convinced that they will lead us with skill and wisdom.
In conclusion, I will continue to count on all delegations, United Nations organs, as well as civil society organizations to advance the implementation of these priorities mentioned above. On the part of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, be most assured, always, on our firm commitment to work with all, in line with both the Charter of our organization, and in view of the urgency of the issues before us.
I thank you.