Remarks by H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly
17 November 2021
Good afternoon, my dear friends.
It is always a pleasure to meet with members of the civil society.
It is even more gratifying to welcome you all back into the General Assembly Hall.
For close to two years, we have lived under the shadow of the global pandemic.
For close to two years, the halls and corridors of the UN were deprived of the voices of civil society representatives.
On behalf of the General Assembly, I am glad to welcome you back with open arms.
Your presence here today speaks volumes and sends a powerful signal to the world.
CSOs are fundamental in building a rights-based world.
You give voice to the disorganized, voiceless segments of society.
You raise awareness of social issues, advocate for change and empower communities.
I am glad that the membership is now slowly adjusting to a ‘new normal’ in their interactions within the halls of the United Nations. I strong believe that civil society should be afforded that same opportunity.
In fact, I believe that a ‘new normal’ should also call for a new multilateralism: one not just limited to interactions between states, but one in in which civil society plays a more prominent role in recovering better from the pandemic, and in shaping our common future.
The pandemic, for one, exposed entrenched inequalities across the world, whether it was widespread discrimination, lack of access to basic services, vulnerability of frontline workers, or increasing domestic violence.
Throughout the pandemic, you have, and continue to play a remarkable role by providing the necessary guidance on the protection and promotion of human rights.
You were monitoring and tracking compliance, urging governments to fulfil their human rights obligations, and providing services.
In many cases CSOs were among the first responders in crisis situations.
At the end of this crisis, there can be no return to business as usual.
The question of whether recovery will lead to more inclusive, just, sustainable, and democratic societies, depends largely on the participation of civil society organizations in this process.
I have always believed in the promise of the United Nations.
As a long-term parliamentarian in the Maldives, it is an honor for me to preside over this global parliament dedicated to the betterment of our people and our planet.
This is not a task to be done in isolation.
This parliament of humanity must bring together all people, from all walks of life, from every region, and from all backgrounds.
It is your rights, your security, your well-being, that this institution is tasked with preserving.
It is our responsibility, as stewards of the United Nations General Assembly, to ensure that you have a say in what happens here, and where this organization is going.
Fairness demands that your engagement is sought, and your views are taken on board.
Trust that through my term, in this Presidency of Hope, I will do everything in my power to ensure that civil society is strongly represented in the General Assembly Hall.
As President of the United Nations General Assembly for this 76th session, I have chosen the theme of ‘hope’ and have selected five priorities to help usher in a more responsive and inclusive multilateral system.
These priorities include recovering from COVID-19, rebuilding sustainably, responding to the needs of the planet, respecting the rights of all, and revitalizing the United Nations.
On each of these we must be focused on the needs of all our communities.
And civil society is the vital bridge linking those communities with their governments and global leaders.
We depend on you to gives us guidance and to inform us.
This has been my position since before the Presidency had even begun.
During the interactive dialogue, which was held in this hall, while I was campaigning for Office of the President, Member States were eager to hear my plans for engaging with civil society. I had committed then to securing the voice of civil society in the General Assembly.
Since that time, I have, worked step by step that commitment.
I have instructed my team to ensure that meetings with CSOs are a regular occurrence throughout all my travel programs. I met with CSO representatives during my travels so far to UAE, the Maldives, Serbia, and Scotland for COP26. At COP, I not only had the pleasure of meeting with youth-led CSOs, but spent my final hours touring the CSO-led ‘Green Zone’.
We have also included CSOs in all our meetings here at the General Assembly, in line with the relevant modalities.
Where I have had the discretion, such as the High-Level Dialogue on Delivering Climate Action, we have incorporated a special program component where voices of CSOs were given spotlight.
And this brings us to today.
I believe that there are about 400 of you registered and hundreds or perhaps thousands more watching at home.
This makes me proud… and gives me hope.
Trust when I say that I am not done yet!
At the request of both CSOs and Member States, I have been advocating with the Secretary-General to fulfil my hope that CSOs will be able to fully access the UN as soon as possible.
I am pleased to announce that, with effect from 3 January 2022, the annual and temporary UN grounds passes of civil society organizations with consultative status with the ECOSOC and / or formally associated with the DGC will be renewed
This sets us on a path to returning to the full involvement of civil society in the work of the General Assembly.
A path that affords civil society the platform they rightfully require to share their needs and priorities.
A path that brings voices from around the world to the United Nations.
A path that enriches the global dialogue and puts us in a better position to address the complex challenges of the 21st century.
In that spirit, I look forward to hearing your views, and to a very productive discussion today.
I thank you.
Throughout our disarmament efforts, it is my conviction that women and youth can make a meaningful contribution. Let us take special pains to ensure that women and youth, as well as civil society, are more actively engaged in this work going forward.