The General Assembly adopted two resolutions today, including an omnibus text on the revitalization of the 193-member organ, as speakers argued that time has come to have a woman lead the United Nations as the Secretary-General beginning in 2027.
First, it adopted — without a vote — a draft resolution titled “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, contained in the report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/75/973).
By the text, the Assembly decided to establish an ad hoc working group towards that aim at its seventy-sixth and seventy-seventh sessions. Open to all Member States, the ad hoc working group will identify ways to enhance the role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency of the Assembly, building on progress achieved in past sessions, as well as on previous resolutions, including by evaluating the status of their implementation.
During the seventy-sixth session, the primary focus will be on the role and authority of the General Assembly, as well as working methods, by other terms of the text. During the seventy-seventh session, efforts will centre on strengthening the accountability, transparency and institutional memory of the Assembly President’s Office, and the selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General and other executive heads.
By further terms, the Assembly decided that the next resolution shall be considered during the seventy-seventh session and biennially thereafter, and further, that the ad hoc working group shall continue its review of the inventory of resolutions on revitalization annexed to its report submitted at the seventy‑fifth session. The ad hoc working group will continue to update the inventory attached to future reports submitted at the seventy-sixth and seventy‑seventh sessions, including the separate indication of provisions that were not implemented, with reasons therefor.
Australia’s representative, speaking before the action on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, welcomed the action-oriented resolution as the product of an ambitious “zero draft” and a willingness by all to engage constructively. It makes progress on a range of reform issues, among them welcoming the decision to biennialize the revitalization process, he said, expressing hope it will pave the way for streamlining other Assembly processes. He also welcomed efforts to decrease the number of side events during the general debate.
The United Kingdom’s representative welcomed the spirit of flexibility during negotiations, saying the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations offered a unique opportunity to ensure the Organization remains fit for the future. The resolution goes further than any recent agreement, he added, welcoming the progress made relative to work methods, the biennialization of the revitalization process and adjustments made for recruiting future Secretaries-General.
Ecuador’s representative said the resolution reiterates the importance for the Security Council continuing to provide its annual report to the Assembly in compliance with resolution 58/126. The amendment to article 1 of the Assembly’s rules of procedure has been sought for years, he noted, welcoming the support expressed for strengthening the Assembly President’s Office.
Denmark’s representative, speaking for the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, said strides were made to adjust the opening date of Assembly sessions, new guidelines were developed to limit the number of events and side events held on margins of the general debate and efforts were made to incorporate the recommendations of the alignment process. Other issues remain pending, he added, urging that a timeline be set for Secretary-General nominations in October of the year preceding the appointment, which would ease procedural burdens. Efforts should be made to explore the prospect of having multiple candidates recommended by the Security Council for the Assembly’s consideration, he proposed, emphasizing that it is appropriate that the United Nations select a female Secretary-General after 80 years of uninterrupted male leadership. Highlighting the importance of inviting States to present female candidates, he also called for discussion on the Secretary-General’s term of office, including consideration of a longer, single and non-renewable term.
Costa Rica’s representative pointed out that, at the end of the current Secretary-General’s term, men will have headed the United Nations for 80 uninterrupted years, during which patriarchy and toxic militarism have thrived. Women and girls around the world have been told they do not “have what it takes” to be the world’s premier diplomat, she said. That notion begins with the Charter of the United Nations itself, which states that “he” shall be the chief administrative officer of the Organization — an error compounded by resolution 11 of 1946, which states that the Secretary-General must be a “man of high eminence”.
While Costa Rica appreciates that qualified women candidates are increasingly considered for the position, she continued, so far, the results have exclusively produced a man at the helm. However, with today’s resolution, the Assembly unites in declaring that 80 years is too long, she said, declaring: “This Organization has prescribed that standard to the rest of the world through Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality), but has not lived up to it on its own terms.” To be clear, that is not the text that Costa Rica wanted, she said, adding that her delegation compromised with those who thought it was too progressive or bold to “just make a call to elevate women to the 38th Floor of this building”. Eighty years of uninterrupted male leadership is not an accident or a coincidence; it is intentional, she emphasized, insisting: “Thus, our calls for a woman at the helm of the United Nations must be intentional, as well.”
Slovakia’s representative, introducing the report on behalf El Salvador, as co-chairs of the ad hoc working group, said the Assembly plays an indispensable role in the Organization’s overall reform and in strengthening multilateralism. “This is a long-term process,” he said, stressing that the resolution must be perceived as a progressive achievement. After a technical rollover resolution in 2020, he welcomed that the full-fledged process conducted in 2021, involving a standard general debate, four thematic debates and an interactive dialogue between the Permanent Missions and the Secretariat.
Highlighting the most important deliberations, he said delegates agreed that the ad hoc working group will conduct the revitalization of a biennial process and strengthen the relationship among the principle United Nations organs by establishing measures to preserve the primacy, significance and established practice of the Assembly’s general debate. On working methods, delegates acknowledged the important role of information and communications technology, with plans to discuss lessons learned during the pandemic to ensure better preparedness in exceptional circumstances.
He went on to note that a substantive decision — reflected in the ad hoc working group’s recommendations — concerns an amendment to rule 1 of the Assembly’s rules of procedure, allowing the session to start on the Tuesday of the second week of September, and in turn, more time for the Assembly President’s Office to prepare for the high-level week.
Finally, he said delegates addressed issues related to the selection and appointment of the Secretary-General and other executive heads, taking steps to ensure the process is guided by the principles of transparency and inclusiveness, with “milestone” recognition that a woman has yet to become Secretary-General. The ad hoc working group also plans to review the functioning of the Assembly President’s Office during the seventy-seventh session. Stressing that “consensus has been a golden rule”, he said the ad hoc working group unanimously adopted the resolution during its 27 July meeting.
The representative of the European Union, speaking in his capacity as observer, welcomed the decision to move the resolution to a biennial cycle, the strong alignment language to accelerate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the agreement to bring the Assembly session’s start date forward by a week, the progress made on the Secretary-General’s selection, the collective aspiration to achieve gender parity, the commitment to limit side events during the high-level week and the recognition of civil society’s important role in Assembly processes, including the selection of the Secretary-General and Assembly President. “All in all, a very impressive outcome,” he said.
Acting again without a vote, the Assembly adopted a draft resolution titled “Modalities for the international meeting entitled ‘Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all — our responsibility, our opportunity’” (document A/75/L.135), by which it decided that the international meeting will comprise an opening segment, four plenary meetings, three leadership dialogues, and a closing segment, to be held on 2 and 3 June 2022 in Sweden.
Guinea’s representative, speaking after the adoption on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recalled the decision to hold the event as an “international meeting”, not a “conference”. He restated the Group’s understanding that there is no expectation to redefine, renegotiate, nor mandate new mechanisms or new commitments, nor to go beyond the provisions of multilateral environmental agreements. He pointed out that operative paragraph 3 is commonly understood to mean that the international meeting and its preparation shall provide for the effective participation of the 193 Member States, four States members of specialized agencies — Cook Islands, Holy See, Niue and the State of Palestine — and one regional economic integration organization, the European Union, that will participate on equal footing.
Regarding paragraph 15 of annex 2, he said the Group had requested to make a full stop after the reference to non-objection basis, without reference to bringing the list of other relevant non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for a final decision by the General Assembly regarding their participation in the international meeting, as well as to replace the footnote associated with that paragraph. The participation of the NGOs lacking consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly should be based on previously consensual agreed language, he said adding that the Group is disappointed that its proposal on that matter was not accommodated.
The Assembly will reconvene in plenary at 10 a.m. on Monday, 13 September, to take action on a draft resolution on Africa’s sustainable development (document A/75/L.112/Rev.1) and the other remaining agenda items.