Closing 76th session, UNGA President urges States not to lose hope amid many challenges

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 13 (APP): The United Nations General Assembly concluded its 76th session Monday, with outgoing President Abdulla Shahid of Maldives urging the international community not to lose hope in the face of myriad global challenges so the U.N. continues delivering to those in need.

“Let us use the instruments at our disposal to secure global peace and justice…[and] tell the next generation that their aspirations, their futures, their planet, are worth fighting for,” Shahid said, stressing that his “Presidency of Hope” sought to deliver for those people, their planet and their prosperity.

It promised to work towards recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuilding sustainably, responding to the planet’s needs, respecting the rights of all and revitalizing the UN.

Despite the pandemic forcing the organ to work in a hybrid fashion, he said that he was “proud” that the General Assembly finished its regular work on time to deliver on this vision, holding 103 formal plenaries and 15 high-level meetings and adopting 307 resolutions and 140 decisions.

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that, like the previous one, the 76th session was marked by a series of deepening challenges: rising prices, the erosion of purchasing power, growing food insecurity and the gathering shadows of a global recession. He further cited a pandemic that refused to be defeated — and the emergence of another health emergency in monkeypox.

Recalling his recent visit to Pakistan, where he witnessed an unimaginable flooded area three times the size of his country, Portugal, the U.N. chief said that deadly heatwaves, storms, floods and other natural hazards bring devastation that plays out against the backdrop of ferocious conflicts, putting millions of lives in jeopardy every day.

Deepening poverty and inequality continue to impede recovery and development, Guterres stressed, spotlighting a morally bankrupt global financial system that penalizes developing countries and blocks their path to sustainable recovery.

He also emphasized the climate emergency “that is — literally — setting our planet on fire.”

Guterres said that, as the General Assembly worked to address these many challenges over the last year, Member States all benefited from Shahid’s leadership, who brought fresh vision to issues like gender equality, climate action and the unique perspective of small island States. His support was also invaluable as the Assembly embarked on the first year of “Our Common Agenda”, facilitating the Member State consultations that have paved the path to progress. “His ‘presidency of hope’ delivered exactly that — hope that we can come together and face the challenges before us, in solidarity,” he stressed.

The coming session will continue to test the multilateral system like never before, he noted — as well as the cohesion and trust among Member States. While the road ahead will be challenging and unpredictable, “using the tools of our trade — diplomacy, negotiation and compromise — we can continue supporting people and communities around the world,” he affirmed. The United Nations can pave the way to a better, more peaceful future for all people and renew faith in the United Nations and the multilateral system, which remain humanity’s best hope.

In his remarks, Shahid, the outgoing Assembly president, also highlighted the Assembly’s work during the 76th session, and said it concerned vaccine equity; issues important to sustainable development, such as the urban agenda, foods, the security and climate change; and sustainable recovery for the tourism sector — the first time this issue has ever been discussed at a high-level meeting. Further, it began finalization of the much-needed multidimensional vulnerability index for small island developing States.

Shahid went on to point out that this session witnessed an increase in the General Assembly’s substantive role and moral authority as it held an emergency special session to address the conflict in Ukraine. It also passed a landmark resolution mandating that the Assembly hold a formal meeting every time a veto is cast in the Security Council to debate the merits of that decision.

He also highlighted efforts to ensure that the gender-equality agenda was mainstreamed, including launching platforms for women leaders and holding a dedicated meeting for female Heads of State and Government during the high-level week.

Stressing that “women should not have to work twice as hard just to prove a point”, he reiterated his call for the next United Nations Secretary-General to be a woman.

“Our actions in these august halls are impacting lives,” he stressed, while at the same time identifying challenges that have yet to be overcome. COVID-19 lingers, new conflicts are emerging, millions are starving and impoverished, the world faces a climate emergency and “the politics of hate continues to divide us even as we are in desperate need of unity”, he said.

Marginalized communities look on in despair as their hard-won rights are stripped away, and the multilateral system is under attack, he said.

“Every crisis feels worse than the last,” he observed, but underscored that “the real crisis would be a loss of hope”. Hope is not blissful ignorance; rather, it is recognizing that which humanity is capable of when people are at their best and work together. Urging those present not to stand idle and let the world drift into an uncertain future, he said that the international community must tell the next generation that their aspirations, future and planet are worth fighting for.

“Today, the seventy-sixth session ends,” he noted, “but hope must live on”.

Following these statements, delegates observed a minute of silent prayer or meditation. The Assembly then invited Csaba Korosi of Hungary, President-elect of the seventy-seventh session, to take an oath of office, before Shahid declared the seventy-sixth session closed.

The 193-member. Assembly will reconvene to hold the first plenary of the seventy-seventh session Tuesday afternoon.

The Assembly’s high-level debate in which many world leaders, including Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, will participate, will begin on Sept 20.