Remarks by H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly
Huzhou, China, 25 November 2021
Thank you, Mr Xu Jian, for the very generous introduction,
Good morning dear friends,
I am very grateful for the opportunity to convene this dialogue – and while COVID restrictions have prevented us from meeting in-person, I can certainly sense your interest and enthusiasm this morning.
This reminds me of a line from a popular Chinese poem by Chairman Mao,
恰同学少年，风华正茂；书生意气，挥斥方遒 (translation: Happy to see your young faces).
The purpose of our meeting is for me to listen to you.
To hear your views, experiences, and thoughts on how the General Assembly can better include youth in decision making around global issues.
Today, we live in a world of looming and pressing challenges.
The global pandemic, climate change, and conflicts, are destroying livelihoods and erasing years of developments gained by countries.
But there have been glimmers of hope.
We find it in the small acts of kindness of humanity.
We find it in the countless sacrifices of front-line workers. In the unrelenting spirit of scientists to develop a vaccine.
It is through these actions that hope grows.
I come from the Maldives and I am told it is a dream destination of the popular Chinese cartoon piglet ‘Mai-do’.
Maldives is a small country, facing the existential threat of climate change. But we are not giving up.
Hope is the ethos of every Maldivian. It is hope for a better tomorrow that keeps us going.
That is why, I have chosen ‘hope’ as the theme of my Presidency.
I believe that by spreading a message of hope – be it on vaccines, climate, or poverty – we water the seeds of inspiration, action, and optimism.
In a world of near constant cynicism and anxiety, we must nurture hope wherever we can.
We cannot become a jaded, uncaring species. We must strive for more.
But of course, my efforts alone will never stop a pandemic. For this, we need action, we must come together in solidarity, young and old, women and men, of all walks of life and all regions, to tackle our challenges.
To deliver on my priority for youth, I have and will continue to meet with youth groups at every available opportunity, including on official visits such as this.
And while in New York, I will ensure that the messages I hear from youth are echoed in the General Assembly, in my statements, my interviews and my meetings.
Just before arriving here, I convened a meeting with civil society, including youth representatives, at UN headquarters in New York. I was inspired by their achievements and contributions on global issues.
I also met with youth at COP26 and learned of their inspiring contributions on climate change. It was youth, for instance, that maintained unrelenting momentum to keep 1.5 alive.
Dear friends, the messages and achievements shared by youth is a reminder of the changes and impacts the youth can bring if we are willing to listen to them, to include them.
At 1.8 billion strong, we would be foolhardy and shortsighted NOT to include youth in any and all deliberations.
The same applies in diplomacy and multilateralism, and I am proud to say that I recently launched a Youth Fellowship Program designed to sensitize young diplomats to the workings of the United Nations.
This ‘Fellowship of HOPE’ as I call it – or the Fellowship for Harnessing Opportunities to Promote the Empowerment of Youth – will specifically target diplomats from least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and SIDS. Countries that are too often underrepresented on the global, multilateral stage. I am happy to say that the Chinese government is one of the sponsors of this Fellowship.
It is my hope that I can inspire youth to become leaders or future diplomats, as I was once inspired.
I remember very well the sense of awe and wonder upon my first visit to the General Assembly Hall.
It inspired me to believe where I am today.
To see other young diplomats in the halls of the General Assembly, witnessing the power and possibilities of multilateralism, would be deeply gratifying for me personally and a powerful tool for the United Nations.
My dear friends,
It is multilateralism that brings the world together.
Our world has changed in many, many ways in the 76-years since the United Nations was founded. But what has only grown is the need for collaborative action to deal with the challenges we face.
As I have said before, we no longer have the luxury of isolationism, that is for the virus.
I commend China for its role in multilateralism.
China remains one of the biggest contributors to the United Nations, providing over 50,000 peacekeepers and financing 12% of the United Nations regular budget.
I express my sincere gratitude to the Government of the People’s Republic of China for its ongoing support to global collaboration.
Before I open the floor for discussions, I would like to introduce a member of my team, and an alumni of your University, Mr Liu Shaoxuan.
Liu is my Advisor for Sustainable Development, seconded by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, and has been kind enough to teach me some Chinese poems.
Once again thank you for the opportunity to meet with you all today and I invite you to,
“指点江山，激扬文字”。(translation: I look forward to hear from you).
I thank you.