Source: Small Island Developing States
15 November 2018: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) held a meeting on the revitalization of its work, with remarks and interventions addressing the need to strengthen multilateralism, the UN’s upcoming 75th anniversary in 2020, and transparency in selecting the UN Secretary-General. UNGA President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés noted the importance of the revitalization process to leave no one behind to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Opening the meeting on 15 November 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, Espinosa called for addressing the “multiplicity and overlap of events and issues” in the UNGA through the process of aligning the agendas of the UNGA and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to the 2030 Agenda.
On multilateralism, Espinosa said trends towards unilateralism and isolation have led to some of the “strongest statements of reaffirmation of multilateralism in decades.” She highlighted a strong call by world leaders for a world order based on multilateralism during the 73rd General Debate, and a “record-breaking” level of participation at that debate, with 126 delegations represented at the level of Heads of State and Government.
China said the international community looks to the UN to advance cooperation and uphold multilateralism. He reported that in its capacity as UN Security Council President, China held a debate on multilateralism in which speakers reaffirmed a need to uphold UN principles and strongly respond to global challenges.
On the working methods of the UNGA, Espinosa indicated that UN Member States have expressed concern regarding the “huge number” of events during the UNGA General Debate in September 2018, including six high-level meetings and some 560 other meetings, convened by regional and other political groups, individual UN Member States and the UN System. She noted that the General Debate serves as a unique forum for world leaders to discuss the most pressing global issues, and parallel events should not overshadow the debate itself. Similarly, Bangladesh called for the creation of clear criteria for organizing events during the Assembly’s high‑level segment.
The Maldives questioned the usefulness of adopting the same resolutions repeatedly every year or adopting more than one resolution on the same subject, and Algeria’s, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said some resolutions must be considered on a biennial or triennial cycle to further improve the Assembly’s efficiency. Belarus noted that the UN’s workload is growing quickly, leading to the expansion of agenda items considered in the UNGA, adding that States with limited resources do not have the capacity to address all items and risk being left behind. Indonesia said the UNGA should streamline its agenda and focus on fulfilling commitments that produce meaningful results on the ground. The US said it would be better to devote “the many hours negotiating” a resolution into implementation, and opposed any moves that would increase UN costs. The Russian Federation remarked that UNGA resolutions should not focus on “dubious” and short-term goals. The EU said the UNGA resolution on ‘Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly’ in September 2018 makes it clear that consensus is not possible in several areas, such as civil society participation, and the rationalization of the UNGA’s agenda.
On matters of peace, security, human rights and economic development, Indonesia called for strengthening consultations between the UNGA and regional organizations. China called on the UNGA to strengthen cooperation with the UN Security Council and ECOSOC.
On increasing the transparency of the processes to elect the UN Secretary-General and other UN executive heads, Algeria for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) noted that electing the Secretary-General must be done through a transparent and democratic process characterized by clear timelines, and encouraged improving the selection of UN executive heads by conducting interactive meetings with candidates. Costa Rica, on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group, urged UN Member States to do more to achieve consensus on lessons learned from the recent Secretary‑General’s selection. He welcomed progress made in promoting concepts of regional rotation and gender balance in the process of appointing candidates for the post of Secretary-General, while the Russian Federation said the main goal should be to select a Secretary-General that is most suitable for the position. Morocco commended the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to achieve gender equality and geographical representation among senior Secretariat staff.
India remarked that the upcoming 75th anniversary of the UN in 2020 provides an opportunity to catalyze revitalization efforts.
The UNGA has established an Ad Hoc Working Group on the revitalization of its work each year since its 62nd session. The Working Group considers: the role and authority of the UNGA; working methods; selection and appointment of the UN Secretary-General and other executive heads; and strengthening the accountability, transparency and institutional memory of the Office of the UNGA President. The co-chairs of the Group for the 73rd UNGA are Sima Sami Bahous, Permanent Representative of Jordan, and Michal Mlynár, Permanent Representative of Slovakia. [UN meeting summary] [UNGA President’s remarks] [UNGA President’s letter announcing appointment of co-chairs] [UNGA revitalization webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on alignment between the agendas of the UNGA, ECOSOC and the 2030 Agenda]