– As prepared for delivery –

Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

16 October 2020

Madam Ambassadors, Excellencies,

I am extremely pleased to join you today, at a special moment for me, in my Presidency of the 75th session.

I would like to thank the distinguished Permanent Representatives of Ghana and Qatar, as the Co-Chairs of the Group of Friends of Gender Parity, for their kind invitation to this exchange, that I was very much looking forward to.

The reason I was wishing to attend this meeting was, to show to the world that, even though we have not reached gender parity at PR-level yet, we have come a long way.

Only 4 of the 850 delegates who met in San Francisco 75 years ago were women. And today we have 52 women PRs in the UN General Assembly.

Back then, women held voting rights, in only 30 of the 50 founding Member States of the United Nations. Today, all over the world, universal suffrage is the norm, not the exception.

I am therefore honoured to be with you today. Together, I believe we can make even more progress.

Madam Ambassadors, Excellencies,

Yesterday was my 30th day in the Office, and this Sunday will be my 60th day in New York City. In the past 30 days, we have achieved, what no one thought was possible in the midst of a global pandemic. We have done this together, with the support of the Member States first and foremost, the Secretariat, other principal organs of the UN and relevant stakeholders.

Today, my remarks will in principle focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women. But I would also like to use this occasion, to take stock of other areas of our work as well, during our first month in the 75th session. Because I have great trust in the sense and advice of women colleagues.

Madam Ambassadors, Excellencies,

We had a very successful High-Level Week. To mark this historic year, we first held a high-level formal plenary, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. This was followed by the General Debate, which was addressed this year by more Heads of State and Government than ever before.

We also held the first-ever UN Summit on Biodiversity; high-level meetings to mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, and the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

High-Level Week, also showed that with careful planning and necessary measures taken, we can successfully organize in-person meetings.

Madam Ambassadors, Excellencies,

The Main Committees have also started their work. I am sure you have heard me in the last two weeks, calling the Main Committees ‘factory with laboratory’ and ‘production line’ of the General Assembly. They are for sure, the engine of our work. In order to support them, I held several coordination meetings with the Chairs of the Main Committees and was pleased to address the delegates in Committee meetings.  

I wholeheartedly congratulate the Chairs, for the work they have achieved so far, under these extraordinary circumstances, and express my appreciation, on behalf of all membership, for the leadership they are displaying.

I am confident that, despite the challenges, the deliberations of the Main Committees, will come to a successful conclusion. My team and I, will extend our support, whenever it is needed along the way.   

Excellencies,

Since my nomination, I have been a strong advocate of close cooperation and cohesion among the principal organs of our Organization. Since my assumption of office, I initiated and held two coordination meetings of this kind. First with the President of the Security Council for the month of September, President of ECOSOC and the Secretary-General;

and the second one yesterday, with the President of the Security Council for the month of October and the Secretary-General.

I am also looking forward to another coordination discussion with the President of ECOSOC this Monday.

I was also pleased to have a useful exchange of views with the President of the International Court of Justice as well.  

And today, Madam Ambassadors, I am delighted to meet with this group, which has been a priority of mine.  You are a key stakeholder in the gender equality and women’s empowerment work of the General Assembly. You are symbols of success and role models, in your foreign ministries and your countries.

Just two weeks ago, we marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This high-level meeting, provided a stark reminder, that no country has achieved gender equality.

Member States pledged to creating a more equal, just, and safer world, to accelerate the realization of the rights of women and girls. The commitments were made at the highest political level.       

So now it is time, to look at how we can all do our part, including the Office of the President of the General Assembly. We must look to leverage our access and convening power, to make progress in this core area of Agenda 2030.

In this regard, I am pleased to announce that, I am creating a new “Gender Advisory Group” to bring critical thought, analysis, guidance, and support on gender issues, to bolster my work this session.

 I have chosen the following membership and they have accepted to be a part of the advisory group:

  • President of the UN-Women Executive Board;
  • United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women;
  • Executive Director of UN Global Compact;
  • Permanent Observer for the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the United Nations;
  • Senior Gender Adviser to the Secretary-General;
  • Principal Investigator of NGO CSW/NY.

 We are working expeditiously, to have this Group convene next month, to create a “plan of action” for the 75th session and beyond.

 I hope that I will be able to draw upon your insights, as well to guide and enrich, the mainstreaming of gender equality, throughout the 75th session.

As we contend with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences of which disproportionately affect women, it is essential that, we uphold women’s rights in all contexts, and prioritize women’s participation at every level of decision-making. You have heard this before. Indeed, I have heard many of you say this yourselves.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

I will also establish, a “Board of Advisors on Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing States, and Small Island Developing States”. I look forward, to sharing further details very soon.     

These groups will not replicate, or detract from existing initiatives or mechanisms. They will serve, to complement all approaches, and provide timely, reliable advice, to underpin the work of the Presidency, in carrying out the important work entrusted to me.

Excellencies,

I am also pleased, to lend my support to the Charter ‘recommitment’ event, proposed by Ambassador Al-Thani and other women PRs, which we are planning for October 26, in the margins of the conclusion to the high level plenary for the UN75 Commemoration.  Your signatures will have special significance.

Excellencies,

As we contend with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences of which disproportionately affect women, it is essential that, we uphold women’s rights in all contexts, and prioritize women’s participation at every level of decision-making. You have heard this before. Indeed, I have heard many of you say this yourselves.

And NOW is the time for action.

Excellencies,

Madame Ambassadors,

 I now would like to take a few minutes, to look ahead of us together with you, from a middle-term perspective of our session.

We have in front of us, especially starting from January, many occasions, where we will have the opportunity, of putting in the focus of GA work through mandated events. This will involve specific issues in sustainable development, human rights, and peace and security.

 I would like to share with you some of the meetings we envisage, during the 75th Session:

To start with, there will be two separate special sessions on Covid and on corruption;

 In addition, there will also be High-level meetings on:

  • Least developed countries;          
  • Social development;
  • Migration;
  • Culture and sustainable development;
  • Desertification;
  • Middle-income countries;
  • Water;
  • Nuclear proliferation;

to name a few.

I am happy to see that, some of these, will directly be addressing my priorities. My team continues to work hard, to prepare these events, and I will be pleased to consult with membership, and share more details on each one of them, as we move forward.    

Excellencies,

Madam Ambassadors,

I look forward to hearing from you today, in particular, your thoughts on the following issues:

First, What is your assessment of gender equality in the multilateral system, in the context of Beijing+25?

Second, What can I do this session, to make concrete improvements in gender equality and women’s empowerment in the UN’s work?

Third, How should we model our behaviour here in the General Assembly, to inspire tomorrow’s leaders?

Fourth, How do we facilitate the leadership of women, in particular young women, and those who have been historically marginalized?

Excellencies,

Before I conclude, I would first of all like to thank you once again, for your strong participation in this meeting. I also especially thank the distinguished Permanent Representatives of Ghana and Qatar as the Co-Chairs of the Group of Friends of Gender Parity.

Thank you for the kind invitation to this very important meeting and for the exchange of views we will all benefit from.