Thank you for joining us today, at this joint briefing of the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.
As two Charter bodies whose work is central to the United Nations, we are committed to enhancing collaboration and strengthening coherence across mandates and processes.
I thank President Kelapile and his team for their ongoing support, and I look forward to working together throughout the resumed session.
I also thank the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management for their support to both the GA and ECOSOC.
As I emphasized in my priorities statement yesterday, the success of our work depends on the support of this membership. I reiterate my sincere appreciation to Member States for their solidarity and support towards the work of both the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.
We are now entering the third year of the pandemic. Progress on sustainable development, especially for developing countries, remains worryingly slow and in some instances stagnant or regressing.
Disparities in the pace of global recovery is compounding existing inequalities. This in turn risks perpetuating violence, conflict, and the marginalization of vulnerable populations. It undermines faith in multilateralism and makes solving common challenges more difficult.
Together, President Kelapile and I resolve to ensure our individual and collective efforts reinforce and shore-up multilateralism, with a strong UN at its center.
This includes efforts to revitalize the GA, strengthen ECOSOC, address overlaps and gaps, and most importantly to optimize resources and capacities for a United Nations that is fit for purpose.
In this vein, where the priorities of both our bodies align, I have endeavored to have ECOSOC’s views represented in the work of the General Assembly.
This includes inviting the President of ECOSOC to speak at my High-Level Thematic events; ensuring ECOSOC’s participation in my Advisory Board on LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS; and contributing to the Advisory Committee on Sustainable Urbanization.
Additionally, I will also continue having regular meetings with the President of ECOSOC, in line with the General Assembly resolution on revitalization.
As we resume this session, no other issue is as critical as vaccine equity. The omicron variant has only underscored the threats we face if we ignore the vast divide in vaccine access.
As I have stressed repeatedly: the only way out of this pandemic is together, through a collective commitment to global vaccination.
Remember, it was human ingenuity and the commitment of Member States, the private sector, and relevant stakeholders that delivered us vaccines.
It was cooperation that saw the COVAX Facility, together with its partners, successfully deliver 1 billion vaccines to 144 countries and territories.
These are milestones to celebrate – and to build upon.
The high-level meeting on galvanizing momentum for universal vaccination, which I will convene on February 25, is an opportune moment to accelerate our momentum.
Together, we can reach populations everywhere and finally move beyond COVID-19, without fear of variants or lockdowns around every corner.
I once again thank the Membership for supporting my ‘New Year’s Resolution’ on vaccine equity and encourage all to continue the campaign as it rolls out in the coming months.
Vaccines aside, recovery among countries is also worryingly uneven.
For most developing countries, including LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS, recovery has been slow, putting them at risk of falling even further behind.
As a community of ‘United Nations’, we must do more to support our fellow countries to meaningfully recover. This means addressing the fragilities of our global financing system, as well as strengthening sectors that have been disproportionately impacted.
One such sector is tourism, where concerted efforts must be undertaken to boost resilience while ensuring alignment with commitments under the 2030 Agenda, including the Paris Agreement.
In line with this, in May, I will convene a high-level thematic event focused on the sustainable and resilient recovery of the tourism sector.
Specifically, as the tourism sector eventually rebounds from the pandemic, it is important that recovery efforts align with reducing global tourism emissions. I look forward to engaging with Member States and relevant stakeholders to see how we can make this a reality.
The tourism sector connects to a variety of development issues – connectivity, supply chains, jobs, gender equality, inequalities, and economic activity. All of this relates to the various aspects covered through discussions in the ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies as well.
Building on the theme of recovery, we will also address the issue of sustainable debt.
Developing countries already face the burden of financing external shocks, including the climate crisis and other natural disasters. The pandemic has only compounded these challenges and prompted national governments to resort to external borrowing to finance recovery measures.
High levels of debt and growing costs of borrowing cast a long shadow over development efforts, including efforts to achieve the SDGs. It is imperative that we pursue effective financing strategies that allow countries to break from the vicious cycles of inequalities and poverty and emerge from this crisis with sustainable levels of debt.
The Joint Event on Debt Sustainability for better recovery, to be convened in May, will take into account and build on the discussions during the Financing for sustainable development Forum, to be convened under ECOSOC, in April.
It is my hope that both these events will contribute to a more resilient and sustainable recovery, especially for the most vulnerable. I look forward to strong participation from Member States at these discussions.
Aside from the pandemic, several other initiatives are scheduled for the remainder of the 76th session that are within the mutual remit of our two organs.
Financing for peacekeeping and peacebuilding is one such area, and I am pleased to note that I will convene a High-level meeting on Financing for Peacebuilding in April.
This will be an opportunity to exchange views on sustainable, adequate, and predictable financing for peacebuilding, and to chart a path forward.
Likewise, both President Kelapile and I are committed to maintaining momentum on environmental issues, in particular climate change. This was demonstrated by the High-Level Thematic Debate on Delivering Climate Action that I convened ahead of COP26, and the ECOSOC briefing on the outcomes of COP26, convened in December, last year.
It is my goal to continue to appeal to Member States for enhanced climate ambition, particularly around revised NDCs, in the lead up to COP27.
In that regard, I look forward to convening a ‘Moment for Nature’ high-level thematic debate in July. This event will serve as an opportunity for the membership to reflect upon the outcomes of the environment related summits taking place this year, and to push for increased ambition and momentum.
Beyond climate change, the focus of the High-Level Political Forum this year renders the need for bold and innovative thinking on SDGs 14 and 15, on life on land and under water.
This is a much-needed dialogue. We are all aware of the devastation being wrought to our planet and few of us would claim that we have done our best to preserve our vital ecosystems.
We must do more. Along with strong participation in the COP-level summits and meetings this year, I encourage the international community to give full support to the President of ECOSOC ahead of HLPF.
Collaboration between the General Assembly and ECOSOC will also be crucial in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
The Advisory Committee on Sustainable Urbanization, which the President of ECOSOC is a member of, have commenced discussions to inform preparations for the upcoming High-Level Meeting on the New Urban Agenda, scheduled for April 28.
This will also highlight the work of the ECOSOC subsidiary bodies relating to urbanization. I welcome any supporting and complementary initiative from ECOSOC focused on the UN development system’s efforts in supporting sustainable urbanization. I invite President Kelapile to share more details in his remarks, on this theme.
Underscoring all of our work – both in the General Assembly and ECOSOC – is the need to leave no one, or no country, behind, to empower all people everywhere, particularly those most at risk.
On this note, I have re-constituted the Board of Advisers for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – to ensure a concerted and coordinated focus on these countries across relevant UN organs and the UN development system.
I have also started the process of establishing a high-level panel of experts on a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for SIDS. The hope is that this will allow for measures that better reflect the complex challenges faced by vulnerable countries.
And of course, I will continue to champion the rights of women and girls.
Having reconstituted the Board of Advisors on Gender, as well as secured parity in the Cabinet of the OPGA, I am focused now on ensuring that everything the General Assembly does is done through a gender-lens, with women empowered at each step.
In February I will be launching an advocacy campaign around ‘women and girls in science’, with the hope of inspiring scores of young women to join the ranks of scientists.
Relatedly, I am pleased that this year’s session of the Commission on the Status of Women will be focused on gender equality in the context of climate change. I had the opportunity to meet with women scientists from the IPCC during COP26 and I am inspired by all that is possible.
Similarly, another area of shared interest is that of youth empowerment.
You are aware of my Youth Fellowship for HOPE. This programme is designed to inspire young people towards multilateralism, enhance capacity, and increase their participation. The ECOSOC’s Youth Forum is also designed to ensure we hear youth voices and encourage their participation in our work.
All of the challenges we have addressed are underpinned in the Secretary-General’s report on Our Common Agenda.
As a follow up on this, I have announced a series of informal consultations to guide implementation of the recommendations in the report.
I look forward to engaging with each of you on ensuring these consultations are a success.
Our journey ahead must be in unison and in concert. If we operate in silos, we risk leaving many behind.
It is in that spirit that I will continue to build on our collaboration. I look forward to continuing to build on the vital and productive relationship between the General Assembly and ECOSOC.
I wish us all successful deliberations and I look forward to your views and thoughts.
I thank you.