“We are here to serve to relieve the suffering of “we the peoples” and to help fulfil their dreams,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres, opening the 72nd UN General Assembly Debate at UN HQ in New York on 19 September. “We are a world in pieces,” he stated, calling for greater focus on people and on efforts to foster trust.
Guterres’s speech heralded the appearance of 33 world leaders on this first day of the Debate. Leaders from as far afield as Uzbekistan and Egypt, Colombia and Gambia, have been presenting their nation’s unique challenges and outlining their world views, each holding the world’s attention for the traditional 15 minutes.
No surprise that top of the list of challenges debated by the 193 countries this week are the issues of nuclear conflict, climate change, the mass displacement of people – over 65 million people worldwide have fled their homes – and the urgent need for multilateral co-operation.
Beyond the negative headlines, beyond the escalating rhetorical row between North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and President Trump; beyond the fact of a reduced American presence at this year’s Debate, many positive trends have also emerged.
There is broad agreement on the need to co-operate to solve the looming threats to world stability. Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, hailed the UN as the ‘prime anchor and mobilizer of international peace, security and stability.’ Vietnam’s deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh praised the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals as the best possible plan for a better planet.
Over and over, country representatives reaffirmed the importance of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. They agreed that urgent action is needed to address the natural disasters that have already caused havoc in the Caribbean so recently, and continue to be the cause of upheaval and mass migration.
President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, said: “We are at a key turning point in humanity’s history,” Others cited the growing divide between the wealthier global North and the increasingly poorer global South, agreeing that peacekeeping and prevention were priorities, rather than simply reacting to each new conflict that reflects these inequalities.
There were several high-level meetings to further the cause of gender equality, and a growing recognition of the importance of women in peacekeeping. Educated and empowered women and girls were also acknowledged as vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Several African nations spoke of encouraging a younger generation of politicians and more women to take up important posts in government.
Of course there are the usual entrenched positions and statements. Yet this week’s General Debate still reflects the willingness of nations large and small to come together, listen to each other and share a vision of global peace and prosperity. Josaia Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, says it best: “We are all in the same canoe.”
You can continue to follow the United Nations on its Facebook page. And join the conversation to assess the week’s events on Twitter at #UNGA.
Want to be part of the solution? We Make Change is creating a new platform to connect you to the issues and charities that touch your heart. You’ll be able to give time, money or things – making a difference in just three clicks!
We’re crowdfunding now to make this powerful platform a reality. Visit our crowdfunding page to find out more, and share this post on social with the hashtag #WeMakeChange.