– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
21 May 2020
It is wonderful to see you, if only virtually as we use all means at our disposal to address the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus. I am delighted to join you today for this second town hall to discuss the next steps in the General Assembly in response to the pandemic.
My thoughts are with member states battling COVID-19. I mourn the many lives lost and extend my best wishes for a swift recovery to those suffering from the disease.
I wish to thank Ambassadors Raz and Šimonović, the Co-Coordinators on COVID-19-related initiatives, for convening this important meeting and for producing an elements paper for a comprehensive omnibus resolution on COVID-19.
I commend their leadership to ensure that the General Assembly addresses this pandemic as one. As we embark on the next steps, I would like to share with you my reflections on the proposed course of action.
2020 was set to be a ground-breaking year, marking major milestones in the United Nations history and ushering in a decade of ambitious action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Instead, on the eve of the organization’s 75th anniversary, COVID-19 has put to a pause many of our common efforts, as nations across the globe are reeling from the shock to their health systems and economies.
While the pandemic is affecting us all, it does not affect everyone equally. COVID-19 is adding to already unmanageable debt burdens and lack of critical financing in developing nations. With socio-economic activity coming to a grinding halt, an additional half a billion of the world population may soon be plunged into poverty.
As schools close their doors, so do the prospects of access to education, nutritious meals and health care for children around the world.
Women, girls and other marginalized groups face worse health outcomes, less security and social protection as well as new barriers to participation and success.
COVID-19 is a challenge unlike any other, requiring us to come up with bold solutions that address the vulnerabilities and inequalities that have been so painfully exposed among and within countries.
Guided by the consultations with member states, the Co-Coordinators have provided us with the blueprint for a coherent and comprehensive international response. An omnibus resolution will, indeed, leverage the influence of the General Assembly to advocate for measures aimed at defeating COVID-19, while mitigating its devastating impact on our societies. It will also serve as a strong expression of our collective commitments to leave no one behind by ensuring that there is no overlap in our initiatives nor gaps in our response. I call on all Member States to continue to support the co-coordinators.
Undoubtedly, this will be one of the most ambitious undertakings the GA has embarked on, at a time that is anything but “business as usual”.
We need an agenda that simultaneously addresses the drivers AND consequences of this multi-dimensional crisis. And we need to put people at the centre of the response and recovery to create better, more equitable and resilient outcomes for all.
Our preparations for the 74th session did not foresee the United Nations operating during a global emergency, not being able to conduct in-person meetings. We have managed to keep going but are clearly navigating unchartered waters.
I commend your agility and resolve in these difficult times to operate in new ways. 23 decisions and resolutions have been adopted under silence procedure, reflecting determination by Member States to cooperate in addressing and mitigating the pandemic.
I count on your continued support as we work towards formulating a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 crisis that matches its magnitude.
We need an agenda that simultaneously addresses the drivers AND consequences of this multi-dimensional crisis. And we need to put people at the centre of the response and recovery to create better, more equitable and resilient outcomes for all. Only if we can develop solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic that are complementary and mutually reinforcing, the United Nations as a whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
I encourage the co-Coordinators to further their outreach to Member States to explore where interrelated initiatives can be combined so that the GA speaks with one voice. The challenges we are facing make consultations more difficult, but we are united in our commitment to an inclusive and transparent negotiation process. The consensual will of Member States will guide our way forward.
COVID-19 presents a watershed moment for multilateralism. In today’s interconnected world, the pandemic has demonstrated that we need more, not less global cooperation. There are no national solutions to stop the spread of the virus and address its socio-economic impact.
In this, our global village of nations, science, solidarity, and compassion are our best line of defence. We must work hand in hand to close the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” and ensure that gains made towards the eradication of poverty and zero hunger are not reversed.
And we must ensure that those most vulnerable – women and girls, people with disability, the elderly and the displaced – are at the centre of recovery. Unless we are all safe, no one is.
We are truly privileged to be in a position where we can play a part in stabilizing the world in this time of crisis. We must appreciate this unique privilege and respect the responsibilities that come with it.
As I have stated before, COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for our nations, but it is one that comes with many opportunities to rebuild better. Opportunities to tackle persistent inequalities and design more inclusive societies. Opportunities to capture and inspire the hope of the people we serve and to build on previous consensus around Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and the Paris Agreement on climate change and demonstrate once more that our joint action changes the lives of the people we serve for the better.
And opportunities to show that “we the peoples” will rise to the challenge and emerge in the wake of the coronavirus as a safer, more just, resilient, and sustainable world.
Let us make good use of these opportunities.
I thank you.