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“The war on our planet must end”

Newsman: The 76th session of the UN General Assembly opened on Tuesday, 14 September 2021. The first day of the high-level General Debate will be Tuesday, 21 September 2021. The General Debate will take place from Tuesday, 21 September to Monday, 27 September 2021, including Saturday, 25 September. Due to the global pandemic, the size of delegations allowed into the General Assembly Hall will be limited, and UN Member States were encouraged to provide pre-recorded statements in lieu of traveling to UN Headquarters. Over 100 Heads of State or Government are expected to attend in person.  

Foreign minister of Maldives, Abdulla Shahid  was sworn in as the General Assembly President and noting that his country’s flag is “flying at the highest peak today” opened the 76th session on Tuesday ,September 14th 2021. He spoke of near-universal “collective anxiety” and hopelessness, not all of which is pandemic-related, saying: “the narrative must change”, and that the General Assembly “must play a part in this”. 

Passing on the gavel to the new Assembly president, António Guterres saluted  his predecessor Mr. Bozkir’s: “Throughout this difficult and historic moment, we have all been fortunate to rely on the leadership of His Excellency, President Volkan Bozkir”. 

“In short, under President Bozkir’s stewardship, this Assembly has proven, time and again, the value of multilateralism and a rules-based international system”, said the Secretary-General.  This spirit of partnership, of uniting in common cause, is “the beating heart of our work here at the United Nations”, Mr. Guterres told the opening session of the 76th General Assembly. 

 “Mr. President, I look forward to close collaboration as we work to serve and support countries during this extraordinary moment in time, and live up to the great promise and potential of the multilateral system and the United Nations”, he said, promising the UN family’s “full support and partnership”. 

He underscored the need to speed-up our response to COVID-19, with vaccines, treatment and equipment for all; to invest in human development, health care, nutrition, water and education; and commit, and commit and live up to bold climate targets at the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow, in November.  

“The war on our planet must end”, he said. “These challenges and divisions are not a force of nature. They are man-made”. 

Mr. Guterres also stressed the need to re-commit to the UN values of human rights, supporting the most vulnerable, peace through dialogue and solidarity. 

“Over the next year, every day, let us keep this better world in view. Let us live and breathe our values in this Assembly and across our work”, he said, telling the new president: “The entire Secretariat is at your disposal”. 

Mr. Guterres said that under Mr. Bozkir’s leadership, the Assembly had sought to “strengthen health systems, deliver COVID-19 testing, treatment and equipment, and contribute to the most ambitious vaccination campaign in history”.  

Moreover, he drove the General Assembly’s vital work in the areas of peace and security, disarmament, human rights, gender equality and sustainable development while also overseeing the adoption of major resolutions on key issues – from peacebuilding to counterterrorism and preventing crimes against humanity – addressing climate change and ending human trafficking.  

In a heartfelt speech before closing the 75th Assembly’s final meeting, outgoing President Bozkir noted that his tenure took place amidst a “tumultuous, historic, transformative, unequal, challenging and ground-breaking year”. 

“From the earliest moments of my Presidency, we knew that COVID-19 would dominate our agenda. However, I can now say that it has reinforced our belief in a more effective and more responsive UN”, he said. 

The UN chief António Guterres credited the outgoing Turkish diplomat and politician for prioritizing a sustainable recovery, rooted in the 2030 Agenda, and supporting countries and communities as they rebuild systems shattered by the pandemic.

Before stepping down, Mr. Bozkir made a series of recommendations that ranged from strengthening the Assembly to realigning “a serious mismatch in the way this Organization treats its employees and the world’s highest political office”. 

He also suggested a shift from focusing on procedures “at the cost of substance” to a “more streamlined, priority driven agenda” and to prioritize the UN as a single entity of respect, integrity and progress.  

Before bringing down the gavel for the last time, he called for a moment of silent prayer or meditation. 

 “This moment in history calls for hope above all, Newly sworn in General Assembly President  said during the opening, to demonstrate to the global population that “we are aware of their plight…are listening…and are willing to work together to overcome problems”.   

And that we can find the courage to “push forward”, “vaccinate the world” and spur a greener, more inclusive, pandemic recovery, he added. 

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