#UNGA NEWS ROUNDUP: Setting the agenda, coalition of the world, Russia’s violation of UN Charter, democratic transformation in Libya, platform for women’s leadership

UN Photo/Cia Pak | President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (on screen) of Ukraine addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-seventh session.

United Nations, 22 September 2022

From 20 September to 26 September, the 77th United Nations General Assembly is held in New York City at United Nations Headquarters.

As the world has begun to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, the debate is held largely in-person, with world leaders heading to NY to deliver their statements in the iconic Assembly Hall.

Here is a short roundup of statements from the first days of #UNGA.

Setting the agenda

At what he called “the most consequential moment of the last four decades,” General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi banged the ceremonial gavel to open the UN General Debate, calling for “solutions through solidarity, sustainability and science” – his motto for the Assembly’s 77th session.

The Assembly President said that the 77th session would be “key” in preparing the SDG Summit in 2023, and the Summit of the Futurein 2024.

“Next year, we will assess SDG 6 at the UN Water Conference – the first since 1977,” he informed the world leaders, flagging that “this call could not be more urgent”.

As water is set to be the next major global driver of conflict, he outlined a threefold problem of “too much, not enough, [and] not safe”.

The session will also assess the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, he continued, maintaining that along with the 2030 Development AgendaParis Agreement, Addis Ababa Action Agenda on development financing and Our Common Agenda, it describes the world we want and offers avenues to get there.

“The challenges are great. And they are interconnected. But they are not insurmountable,” Mr. Kőrösi upheld.

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Guterres calls for ‘coalition of the world’ to overcome divisions, provide hope in place of turmoil

With people from all points of the globe crying out for relief and hope, international action on major challenges – from climate to conflict and securing sustainable development – is paralyzed by dysfunction and held hostage to geopolitical tensions, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Tuesday.

Delivering a powerful address to world leaders gathered for the opening day of the General Assembly’s high-level debate, the Secretary-General said: “Our world is in big trouble. Divides are growing deeper; inequalities are growing wider; challenges are spreading father… we need hope… we need action across the board.”

With evocative images of the Brave Commander, one of the vessels that has been carrying tonnes of Ukrainian wheat bound for points in Ethiopia, Yemen and beyond, showing behind him on the walls of the iconic General Assembly Hall, Mr. Guterres said the ship, and the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative that had launched it were not symbols of conflict and hunger but of hope born of cooperation.

“It sailed the Black Sea with the UN flag flying high and proud.  At its essence, this ship is a symbol of what the world can accomplish when we act together. Ukraine and the Russian Federation – with the support of Türkiye – came together to make it happen – despite the enormous complexities, the naysayers, and even the hell of war. This is multilateral diplomacy in action. Each ship is also carrying one of today’s rarest commodities: Hope,” he stated.

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Biden denounces Russia’s ‘shameless violation’ of UN Charter, urges world to stand with Ukraine

Strongly denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, United States President Joe Biden warned United Nations Member States on Wednesday that “if a nation can pursue imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this great institution stands for.”

At the opening of a wide-ranging address to the UN General Assembly, President Biden said that amid countless upheavals the world had witnessed over the past year – from extreme weather events to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and rolling food and fuel shortages – “a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded his neighbor … attempted to erase a sovereign State from the map.”

“Russia,” he continued, “has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations Charter … and “just today [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe in reckless disregard of the global non-proliferation regime.” Mr. Biden also said Russia was “right now” calling up more soldiers and preparing a “sham” referendum on the annexation of lands it already occupied in eastern Ukraine.  

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Ukrainian President outlines peace formula that punishes aggression, restores security

Russia must be punished for its “illegal war” against Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday – part of a “peace formula” that also calls for greater civilian protection and defense support. 

“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment,” he said in a pre-recorded message to world leaders.  

“The crime was committed against our State borders. The crime was committed against the lives of our people. The crime was committed against the dignity of our women and men. The crime was committed against the values that make you and me a community of the United Nations.” 

Five point plan:

Last week, UN Member States met to vote on allowing Mr. Zelenskyy to deliver his speech via video instead of in-person. 

Speaking in English, the President outlined a peace formula that punishes aggression, protects life, restores security and territorial integrity, guarantees security, and highlights the importance of determination. 

He stressed that it does not include neutrality.   

“Those who speak of neutrality, when human values and peace are under attack, mean something else,” he said. “They sympathize only for protocol. And that is why they pretend to protect someone, but in reality, they protect only their vested interests.”

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Libya working towards a democratic transformation, President tells UN

Libyan President Muhammad Yunus Al-Manfi told the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that as it moves towards building a State of institutions and establishing principles of democracy, his country has through a decade of “pain and hope”.

He upheld his commitment to the Libyan Political Agreement, and as “the supreme political authority” will lead efforts to prepare for a peaceful and democratic transfer of power through presidential and parliamentary elections.

The most senior Libyan official thanked the African Union (AU) for its cooperation in launching a national reconciliation project, which represents the most important track for the country to reach its desired goal of peace and stability.

Moreover, he stressed the need for time limits during dialogues between the House of Representatives and the State Supreme Council, offering his willingness to intervene “to get the political process out of its impasse whenever necessary”.

Role of the UN

Mr. Al-Minfi noted positively the UN’s involvement in Libya and envisioned an active role through the country’s new leadership.

He urged the Organization to seriously work to support comprehensive national solutions to the political impasse, noting that it has almost undermined the political achievements gained through the UN-sponsored Libyan dialogue.

The President also called for restoring economic momentum and reducing the “power of corruption”.

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Central African Republic President calls for protecting the environment

The current session of the UN General Assembly provides a “solemn opportunity” to consider common challenges that are of serious concern to the future of humanity, President Faustin-Archange Touadéra of the Central African Republic (CAR) told the global gathering on Tuesday.

“More than ever, the question of security, peace, the environment, and health are entering a phase which is critical. However, the warning signs are being ignored in favor of economic, geopolitical and geostrategic interests,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

The General Assembly theme this year is A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges.

Honour your commitments

For Mr. Touadéra, protection of the environment is among the interlocking challenges that countries must overcome.

“It is time for the biggest polluters to honour their commitments, in particular the implementation of the Paris Agreement, as well as international solidarity for climate justice with respect to the most vulnerable populations,” he stated.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how global public health “is an imperative for all nations, without exception”.

‘Paradigm shift’ in health

The President said the CAR has welcomed “the paradigm shift” underway in the health sector, and the unprecedented momentum of solidarity accompanying it, including access to vaccines for polio, COVID-19, and soon, malaria.

He reported that the country has achieved polio-free status, while 50 per cent of the target population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I commend and encourage the health emergency preparedness initiative implemented by the World Health Organization (WHO),” he continued. “The

Central African Republic is proud to be the instigator of it, and to be the first pilot country which is helping to tangibly improve our ability to manage epidemics.”

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New platform highlights women’s leadership in tackling global challenges

Women Heads of State and Government meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Tuesday have highlighted how women’s full and effective participation and decision-making are crucial to addressing global priorities. 

The newly established UNGA Platform of Women Leaders held an event where they discussed global issues under the theme of Transformative Solutions by Women Leaders to Today’s Interlinked Challenges

In attendance were President Katalin Novák of Hungary, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir of Iceland, Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa of Samoa, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja of Uganda, Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes of Aruba, and Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs of St. Maarten, as well as former Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand.

Making a ‘positive difference’ 

Recent global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and conflicts, have shown the positive difference women’s leadership and decision-making can make in executive positions, parliaments, and public administration.  

For example, data from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, shows that governments with higher women’s representation in parliaments adopted a higher number of gender-sensitive policy measures in response to the pandemic, including policies aimed directly at strengthening women’s economic security. 

Tuesday’s event was hosted by the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly and UN Women, in cooperation with the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL). 

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