Remarks of UNGA President, Amb. Tijani Bande at the closing session of General Debate


I must begin by underscoring my appreciation of the contributions made by participants in this year’s General Debate.

As I listened to the speakers, I formed the distinct impression that, far from being an out-moded principle, multi-lateral cooperation remains an accepted and reliable method of managing relations among nations. That so many world leaders made time to participate in the deliberations which took place during the High Level Week is, along with the quality of engagement at the General Debate, indisputable evidence of the strength of multilateralism.

It is my hope that the enthusiasm displayed during the Debate will prove invaluable as we approach the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, and as we join hands to respond to contemporary and unfolding global challenges.

It is perfectly legitimate to raise questions about the essence of, and need for, multilateralism. All the same, even when we disagree on how the world should be organized to respond to, or anticipate, mounting challenges, we shall eventually come to common cause on the need for a rules-based international order.

In a highly polarized world, multilateralism is the only guarantee of peace, security, and sustainable development. The world will not survive for long unless we cultivate the give-and-take spirit which is a distinct and defining attribute of multilateralism.

It is gratifying to note that even those who are a bit skeptical about the direction of multilateralism acknowledge this much.  Active participation in the General Debate by 192 of our 193 Member States is the clearest indicator of the acknowledgement of the inter-dependence between and among nations.

The General Assembly is the most representative body in the United Nations. However, it is disheartening that, this week, only sixteen of the one hundred and ninety-two speakers were women [this figure is to be fact-checked at end of the General Debate]. When we speak of a representative United Nations, this is clearly not what we mean.

By a representative United Nations, we mean a body that allows every human being to realize his or her fullest potential, unhindered by his/her gender or by a history of disadvantage. Gender equality in the contemporary world is still work in progress.

We therefore need to double our efforts to speed up the process of including women not only in decision-making structures, but also in the list of speakers billed to address high-level fora. I implore each of you to make space for women, to facilitate the full participation of women at all levels of decision-making.

This week the world’s youth made their mark. They marched in their millions all over the world and quite literally took over the General Assembly at the Climate Action Summit. Let me assure you youth– we hear you! But that I hear you does not mean you should lower the volume. You should continue to make your voice heard at every opportunity you have.

The week began with climate action announcements, and proceeded with the historic adoption of a political declaration on Universal Health Coverage focused on prevention, promotion and quality delivery of health care. This is a remarkable achievement.

Similarly, the SDG Summit ended with the adoption of a political declaration captioned, “Gearing up for a Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development”.

Our work is guided by Agenda 2030, but this week we paused to reflect on a watershed moment of thirty years ago when we adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We will reconvene in November to celebrate this anniversary.

It has been almost 75 years since our Organization was created to assure the world of peace and security.

This week, we celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, and marked the Signing and Ratification of the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear weapons. These events crown the admirable efforts of Member States towards a nuclear-weapons-free-world. I applaud you for leading these important initiatives.

The High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, the first since the adoption of the Addis Ababa Agenda, highlighted the need to mobilize resources to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. To honour our commitments, we need an additional sum of $2.4 trillion.

One place to start is by curbing illicit financial flows which siphon $2.6 trillion every year from the global economy. We must also accord good governance high priority. This is to ensure that corruption does not continue to derail progress and fuel conflict as we approach the year 2030.

The global financial system must meet the needs of all Member States, while, at the same time, moving them away from unsustainable commitments and high indebtedness. It is noteworthy that the need for sustainable financing was highlighted at the High-Level Review of the SAMOA Pathway.

Small Island Developing States have, undoubtedly, shown resilience and leadership in hard times. Now, it is up to the world to assist them in every way possible, and to ensure that they participate as equal partners in global economic activities. By helping them we are also helping ourselves and living up to the requirement of our humanity.

Fortunately, partnerships underscore all of our actions here at the UN. We will not achieve progress without engaging all stakeholders as equal partners.

As we move beyond High-Level Week, I look to you to serve as the United Nations’ partners in galvanising multilateral efforts on poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion. These, after all, are shared issues.

Seventy-four years after the founding of the United Nations we remain connected by the search for solutions to current and emerging challenges which cannot be tackled by one Member State alone. The General Debate demonstrated that we have far more that unites us than that which divides us.

Many leaders at the General Debate made reference to similar challenges: conflict; violent extremism; nuclear proliferation; migration; climate change; and persisting inequalities. Member States called for a more representative Security Council and cost-effective Secretariat and General Assembly.

We have listened and now we must take heed as we move forward collectively throughout the Seventy-Fourth Session.

In conclusion, I, on behalf of the entire membership of our illustrious Organization, thank our host Government for providing the security without which the deliberations at the 74th Session would have been impossible.

I also salute the dedicated staff of the United Nations, notably, the safety and security personnel, the staff of the Pass Office, the protocol teams, the interpreters, the entire members of staff of the  DGACM, and of course, the Office of the President of the General Assembly (OPGA). You have proved that you, the staff members, are the resource that the UN relies upon to accomplish its mission and serve the world.

I wish to thank the various delegation, the participants from civil society and youth organizations for their participation in meaningful discussions throughout High-Level Week. I am confident that by keeping up this momentum, and striving together we will succeed in delivering for all.

I thank you. I wish those travelling back to their countries safe trip.