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

Meeting of the Group of Francophone Ambassadors

29 January 2021


Monsieur le Président du Groupe des ambassadeurs francophones, cher Léon Kakou Adom,

Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs,

Chers amis,

C’est pour moi un immense honneur d’être parmi vous ce matin. Je vous remercie vivement de m’avoir invité à échanger avec le groupe des ambassadeurs francophone, et je constate avec plaisir que vous êtes nombreux et dynamiques au sein de notre grande famille onusienne.

Pour autant que j’aime la langue française, je dois malheureusement avouer que je serai plus à l’aise en anglais. Avec votre permission, je passerai donc de la langue de Molière à celle de Shakespeare (malheureusement pour moi, le turc n’est pas une langue officielle de l’ONU!)



I do not need to explain the importance of the work of the United Nations to all of you, however I am aware that the general public is not always as aware of the good work of the United Nations as it could be. Our communication tools, including the languages we use, are essential to reach the public and those we serve.

In that regard, I am well aware of the value of a multilingual United Nations and the need to strengthen the implementation of multilingualism across the UN system, including through political advocacy when appropriate.

With over 274 million French speakers in the world, that of course includes the French language. The states and governments of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie [OIF] represent more than a third of the United Nations member states, dispersed over five continents.

Despite my desire for a fully multilingual UN, I must admit that we face internal limitations in terms of capacities and resources. The Office of the President of the General Assembly relies on partners for many of its operations and in order to develop a coherent UN-wide approach to multilingualism, the discussion would need to involve initiatives on several fronts, including translation services and IT support.

However, in spite of the existing challenges, I am taking steps to ensure my Office better delivers on multilingualism.  For example, we used the OPGA Trust Fund to have the summaries of the Biodiversity Summit and the High-level meeting on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women translated into the six official UN languages. 

And I have good hope that we can address some of the other concerns as well. My Office has been working with the Department of Global Communications to translate the main information in the events section of our website. My team continues to work to advance multilingualism, but we also welcome Member States’ support as earmarked contributions to translation services.



Let me take this opportunity to thank you for your support last year and briefly set out my priorities for 2021, which will build on the successes of the main part of the session.

While addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts must continue to be our priority this year, it is not our only focus. Critical environmental concerns will continue to dominate our agenda, with COP-level events on climate change; biodiversity; and desertification, land degradation and drought happening in 2021.

The General Assembly will support these critical moments by:

Firstly, we will continue to maintain momentum on the path to the 15th meeting of the States parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming. It is our hope that COP15 generates concrete action in this critical area and includes the finalization of a post-2020 global framework for biodiversity.

Second, with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’ COP26, in Glasgow, quickly approaching, and I encourage all Member States to raise their ambition on climate targets.

Third, in April, the General Assembly will host a High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought, an opportunity for Member States to assess the progress made during the “UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification”, and to map a path forward.

And finally, as mandated by the General Assembly, I will convene a High-level Meeting on Water and Sustainable Development in March 2021. This will contribute to the HLPF and the midterm comprehensive review of the implementation of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”.

I also plan to organize a High-Level event in the Summer of 2021, together with Portugal and Kenya, and with the support of the SG’s Special Envoy for Oceans, former PGA, Peter Thomson. This meeting will be held with a view to keeping momentum towards the 2nd UN Ocean Conference, which will take place next year in Lisbon, as soon as public health conditions allow.

In addition to focusing on climate change and the recovery from COVID-19, I will prioritise other key events including:

  • The General Assembly mandated High-Level event on the contribution of culture to sustainable development, in May, where I intend to underscore culture’s potential as an underused accelerator of SDG implementation, as well as a key component of COVID-19 recovery efforts.
  • A Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity on 27th of April, which will be held back-to-back with the ECOSOC Science, Technology and Innovation Forum.
  • A special session of the General Assembly in June to discuss threats to the stability and security of societies posed by corruption, complemented by a High-Level event, organized by my Office and mandated by the General Assembly. I look forward to beginning this discussion with Member States, in February, as the 2021 Parliamentary Hearing of the United Nations will also focus on corruption.
  • I will also hold a debate on the Midterm Review on the International Decade for People of African Descent, as well as participate in the High-Level Forum on a Culture of Peace. It is my hope that these events will present the opportunity for dialogue on strengthening equality, justice and inclusiveness in our societies.
  • I intend to convene a thematic event to mark the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, in April this year. This will be a day to promote the values of the United Nations as outlined in the Charter; to reaffirm the importance and relevance of multilateralism and international law; and to advance the common goal of lasting and sustained peace through diplomacy.
  • In June, as part of Counter-Terrorism Week, we will see the 7th biennial Review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, where I look forward to a successful outcome.
  • The High-level Thematic Debate on “Urban safety, security and good governance: making crime prevention a priority for all”, will be also organized this year, in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. This debate will provide an opportunity to discuss and evaluate how we can better prioritize safety and security in cities, as well as build capacities to eradicate local vulnerabilities exploited by criminals.

Excellencies, this is far from a comprehensive list of my priorities and activities.  Some of my priorities are, as you know, cross-cutting.  Gender equality, for example, infuses all the work we do and will be reflected in the preparations for the events I have outlined.  Similarly, accelerating progress towards the SDGs, with a special focus on the most vulnerable is always at the front of our minds.  The Advisory Boards I have established reinforce this approach and help ensure we make the most of the opportunities for policy deliberation and political commitment on these priorities throughout the 75th session. We will have an opportunity to discuss this further and I encourage you and your delegations to look on my website for a more detailed list of upcoming events and processes.

Another important process that is happening this year is the negotiations of the resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. I am very much looking forward to the resolution’s smooth adoption this year to continue to strengthen cooperation between the two Organizations.


Let me leave it there.  I look forward to hearing from you and to our fruitful cooperation throughout the 75th session.