15 September 2020

Closing Seventy-Fourth General Assembly, Secretary-General Commends Stalwart Leadership during COVID-19 Pandemic, Calls for Unity in Building Back Better

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the closing of the seventy-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York today:

I am pleased to join you for the closing of the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly — a session like no other in the past 75 years.  The last seven months have been extremely difficult for the people we serve, and for many of us, personally and professionally.  The COVID-19 pandemic has cut a swathe through our lives and our communities.  We are all dealing with high levels of uncertainty; right now, we are still in the middle of the fog.

The extent of the pandemic, its social and economic impact, and its interaction with other global challenges and megatrends, is unknowable.  Our only hope is to respond with unity and solidarity, while supporting the most vulnerable.

It has been a privilege to work with the General Assembly, our common platform for international consensus and action, during these difficult days, under the leadership of His Excellency Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.  Professor Muhammad‑Bande’s capable stewardship saw the General Assembly adopt new working methods to continue its work smoothly.  He made great efforts to ensure business continuity through regular convening of the General Committee and other online briefings.

On a personal note, I would like to thank Professor Muhammad-Bande for his wise, determined and serene approach to those unforeseen challenges, and his excellent judgment under pressure.  I commend the patience and support he has demonstrated during these unprecedented times.  The introduction in March of new decision-making procedures made it possible for the General Assembly to adopt resolutions and decisions without in-person meetings.  More than 70 resolutions and decisions were adopted in this way.

Two of these, adopted with wide co-sponsorship, called for solidarity and global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment during the pandemic.

The seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly also oversaw elections to the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, and successful intergovernmental negotiations on the Declaration for the Commemoration of the seventy-fifth Anniversary of the United Nations, and on the Omnibus Resolution on Comprehensive and Coordinated Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  I thank you all for your support and cooperation, and congratulate you on completing a full programme of work.

The United Nations has mobilized fully to support Member States in response to the pandemic.  We have put our supply chains, assets, expertise and capacities around the world to work, and supported the health response by distributing medical supplies, training health workers and increasing testing and tracing capabilities.

Our humanitarian agencies are targeting some 250 million people at greatest risk; our peacekeeping missions are taking steps to protect vulnerable communities; and our country teams are providing direct support and expertise to Governments for a sustainable, inclusive response and recovery.  We are using our communications channels to share information on prevention and containment, and we have launched the “Verified” campaign to promote facts and science and fight the spread of dangerous misinformation online.

Here in New York, we have made every effort to ensure that our day-to-day work continues with minimum disruption by adopting innovative working methods based on new technologies, and we have also taken extensive steps to keep delegates and staff safe, including by providing testing.  I thank you all for your support to this important work, and look forward to continuing our cooperation in seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly.

Virtual participation may mean that a record number of Heads of States and Government take part in the high-level week, but going online will undoubtedly create new challenges.  We will need to learn as we go, and continue to demonstrate the greatest flexibility.  I look forward to working with you all, under the Presidency of His Excellency Volkan Bozkir, to make the seventy-fifth session a success.  The world looks to the United Nations as the indispensable forum for international cooperation on global challenges.  Let us continue our work together to beat the pandemic and build a better future.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.