The General Assembly concluded its seventy-fifth session on Tuesday, with outgoing President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey) making recommendations to strengthen the 193-member organ’s ability to meet key global challenges and give voice to those most in need.
“This year has been tumultuous, historic, transformative, unequal, challenging and ground-breaking,” Mr. Bozkir said, stressing that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Assembly was able to hold all the high-level and other events mandated during his term, including 105 formal plenaries and 16 high-level meetings.
Describing the Assembly as “the most representative global body” and “the single best platform to mobilize political will and incubate collective solutions to a global crisis”, he expressed disappointment that it is not being used effectively and efficiently. “Our words continue to outpace our actions,” he lamented.
The world is increasingly globalized, interconnected and interdependent, he continued, stating that nationalistic solutions will not resolve the current challenges. Despite having the tools available to pursue a multilateral approach, States have pursued a go-it-alone approach, prolonging the pandemic, which has unveiled the depths of global inequality, including the lingering and ever‑widening digital divide and gaps in gender equality. The Sustainable Development Goals represent a blueprint for peace and prosperity, for people and the planet, now and into the future, he said, urging the Assembly and Member States to redouble efforts to implement the Goals.
Stressing that the Assembly must be strengthened, he went on to make several recommendations. “There are far too many examples of the UN following the crisis, instead of being ahead of it,” he said, pointing out that the Organization’s preventive diplomacy tools must be refurbished and better utilized. The Office of the President of the General Assembly must be further institutionalized and supported, he said, emphasizing that delays and inefficiencies, resulting from a lack of staff and insufficient resources are not acceptable. An enhanced cadre of professionals is needed to run the Office and maintain institutional memory.
Noting that Assembly-led high-level meetings are poorly attended, he called for restricting the number of those engagements to focus more on substance and quality. The Assembly must also continue to give a voice to those most in need, he said, noting deep respect he witnessed for the United Nations flag among Syrians and Rohingya Muslims in refugee camps and people affected by volcanoes and hurricanes in the Caribbean.
“They expect the General Assembly, as the most democratic body, to be their voice and deliberate on their behalf. This, above all else, must be our priority,” he said, also emphasizing the importance of strengthening cooperation between the Assembly and the Security Council. If they work together, they can reach great distances. If they pull in opposite directions, they risk tearing the Organization apart, he added.
“The General Assembly cannot be reduced to a talking shop, or merely focused on normative guidance of the development agenda,” he declared, calling for the strengthening of the Assembly’s available tools to address the key issues facing the planet and species.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that, throughout this difficult and historic moment, Mr. Bozkir’s leadership helped the Assembly rally around the need for a sustainable recovery, rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — scaling up support for countries and communities as they rebuild systems shattered by the pandemic.
The Assembly President ensured that the United Nations system had the Assembly’s support to strengthen health systems, deliver COVID-19 testing, treatment and equipment, and contribute to the most ambitious vaccination campaign in history, the Secretary-General said, adding that Mr. Bozkir drove the Assembly’s vital work in peace and security, disarmament, human rights, gender equality and sustainable development.
“In short, under President Bozkir’s stewardship, this Assembly has proven, time and again, the value of multilateralism and a rules-based international system,” he said, adding: “It has shown what we can achieve by working as one.”
Following these statements, delegates observed a minute of silent prayer or meditation. The Assembly then invited Abdulla Shahid, President-elect of the seventy-sixth session, to take an oath of office, before Mr. Bozkir declared the seventy-fifth session closed.
The Assembly will reconvene to hold the first plenary of the seventy-sixth session at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 14 September.