Multilateralism, Adapting to Global Challenges, Less Security Council Encroachment Crucial in Revitalizing General Assembly
Assembly Proclaims 18 November World Day for Preventing, Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, Violence
Revitalizing the work of the General Assembly is of crucial importance in the overall reform of the United Nations and strengthening of multilateralism, delegates stressed today, as the Assembly also proclaimed 18 November as World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence.
Delegates debating the work of the Assembly underscored that inclusive, effective and efficient multilateralism, specifically in the COVID‑19 pandemic era, is a must in treading the path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. COVID‑19 provided an opportunity to consider the effectiveness and efficiency of the Assembly in tackling fast‑evolving global challenges.
General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary), opening the debate, said retaining the relevance of the Assembly will depend on its ability to adapt its work to challenges of the twenty‑first century. While the goal of revitalizing the Assembly is broad and general, the actual work is often technical. “It is sometimes time‑consuming, sometimes frustrating, but the work can, and it does, change this Assembly in a very concrete manner,” he said.
Speakers throughout the debate echoed those sentiments, with the representative of Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, emphasizing that the Assembly must preserve its intergovernmental, inclusive and democratic nature. He also reiterated his objection to the Security Council’s encroachment on matters clearly within the powers of the Assembly.
Malaysia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reiterated the important role of the Assembly’s main committees in complementing the work of the Ad‑Hoc Working Group. The Office of the President of the Assembly must be equipped with adequate human and financial resources through the regular budget to strengthen its accountability, transparency and institutional memory. The Office should not rely on voluntary contributions, he emphasized.
Morocco’s delegate underscored that the Assembly's agenda must align with the aims and goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, adding: “Multilateralism needs to be improved so that we can be positioned to surmount the challenges that humanity faces in an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world.”
The representative of Belarus stressed the need to avoid duplication in the work of the General Assembly, its main committees and the Economic and Social Council. To strengthen the institutional memory of the Office of the President, the outgoing president should inform the incoming one of experiences gained and lessons drawn, he added.
The Russian Federation’s delegate objected to the use of the Assembly platform for public relations campaigns, which attempt to demonize certain Member States. Such acts undermine the work of the Assembly and risk it becoming a tool to advance certain country agendas, she warned.
The Assembly also adopted a resolution titled “World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence”, which was introduced by First Lady of Sierra Leone Fatima Maada Bio.
In her address to the Assembly, Ms. Bio said that the prevalence of child sexual abuse contributes to the global burden of disease and adversely impacts economic and social development, particularly in developing nations. The Day, she expressed hope, will increase awareness of child sexual abuse, mobilize governments and civil society to promote understanding, take action and help eliminate the shame and stigma associated with child sexual abuse.
Also speaking today were representatives of Costa Rica, Maldives, Singapore, Ecuador, Mexico, Japan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, Brunei Darussalam, Poland, Philippines, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Viet Nam, India, Sri Lanka and El Salvador.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, also participated, as did an observer of the Holy See.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 09 November, to consider the Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary), calling the Assembly the main vehicle for multilateral diplomacy, stressed the need for crisis management and transformation. “For our work to make a difference to the people outside of the General Assembly Hall, and to Member States, we must further revitalize this institution,” he said. The ability to retain the relevance of the Assembly depends on the ability to adapt its work to the challenges of the twenty‑first century. While the goal of revitalizing the General Assembly is a broad and general one, the actual work is often technical. “It is sometimes time‑consuming, sometimes frustrating, but the work can, and it does, change this Assembly in a very concrete manner,” he said. The objective must always be to “serve the 8 billion people who count on our help,” he added.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South‑East Asian Nations (ASEAN), reiterated the important role of the Assembly’s main committees in complementing the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group. As building a responsive multilateral system is essential, the Working Group must remain focused on its specific clusters during the seventy‑sixth and seventy‑seventh sessions respectively, he emphasized. On the Office of the President of the Assembly, he called for the Office to be strengthened with adequate human and financial resources through the regular budget to strengthen its accountability, transparency and institutional memory. The Office should not rely on voluntary contributions and the secondment of officers from Member States or the country of the President, he emphasized.
The selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General and other executive heads, he continued, must be through a transparent and open selection process. Their crucial role in leading and managing the United Nations and its bodies merits attentive judgement and careful selection. Such considerations must also take into consideration equitable geographical distribution, representation and gender balance, he added.
MOHAMED FAIZ BOUCHEDOUB (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said a revitalized Assembly strengthens the wider United Nations system, improves global governance and reinvigorates multilateralism. There must be a full evaluation that clearly identifies underlying causes inhibiting implementation of Assembly resolutions and contributes to the gradual elimination of constraints, which prevent the Assembly from living up to its potential, he emphasized. The Assembly must improve its mutually reinforcing and complementary relationship with the Security Council and rationalize its work. The number of high‑level and side events organized in parallel with the General Debate should also be kept to a minimum, he suggested.
Recognizing the role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)in enabling the Organization’s work under exceptional circumstances, he underscored the need to maintain strict compliance with the Assembly’s rules of procedure. The Office of the President of the Assembly should further enhance its efficiency and effectiveness and conduct an in‑depth review of its functioning during the current session, he continued. On the Assembly’s role and authority, he reiterated his objection to the Security Council’s encroachment on matters clearly within the prerogatives and powers of the Assembly and its subsidiary organs. The Assembly must preserve its intergovernmental, inclusive and democratic nature, while ensuring respect for the Charter‑based prerogatives of the Organization’s principle organs, he emphasized.
SILVIO GONZATO (European Union), speaking in its capacity as observer and on behalf of other countries, encouraged further biennialization, triennialization, clustering and elimination of agenda items. Resolution A/75/325, together with the Co‑Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group’s summary of key proposals made during the last session, provides a roadmap for the current session, which focuses on the Office of the President of the General Assembly and the selection and appointment process of the Secretary‑General. He supported the concrete proposals in the summary, such as making better use of the General Committee, hand‑over meetings between outgoing and incoming committee chairs or a voluntary pledge to limit the number of side events during the General Debate. Underscoring the importance of gender parity and multilingualism, he called for strengthening of the accountability and institutional memory of the Office of the President of the General Assembly.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, highlighted the need for a predictable and transparent timeline for the selection of the next Secretary‑General during the Assembly’s eightieth session. As agreeing on an indicative timeframe would ease procedural burdens and improve clarity for Member States and candidates alike, the process should start in October of the year preceding the appointment, with April of the appointment year as the deadline for presentation of candidates, she suggested. The prospect of multiple recommended candidates as well as terms of office of the Secretary‑General, she continued, should also be clarified.
Turning to the annual report of the Security Council, she urged its continued and timely submission. The Council should make better use of the annual report to provide a more complete, substantive and analytical account of its work, she encouraged, while calling for the reflection of that body’s special reports. Such reports are an important innovation bringing Council practice closer in line with the Charter, she said, adding that they can be used in other scenarios to ensure that the Assembly remains informed. Lessons from the COVID‑19 pandemic should be codified and further analyses of draft resolutions that failed ‑ including using the veto ‑ should be included, she added. Spotlighting the veto initiative, she emphasized the Assembly’s special responsibility when other parts of the system are unable to fulfil their mandates.
HASSAN ADAM (Maldives) said that a stronger United Nations requires a more robust General Assembly. He welcomed transparency in the election and appointment process of the Secretary‑General and enhancement of the relationship and coordination between the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and Security Council. He called on the Assembly to continue responding to a rapidly changing world, citing its work during the COVID‑19 pandemic, despite limitations, its eleventh Emergency Special Session this year and adoption of the Veto Initiative. Turning to efficiency, he expressed support for streamlining the Assembly’s processes to free up resources in addressing more pressing issues. He welcomed the Ad Hoc Working Group’s decision to strengthen the accountability and institutional memory of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, which will be boosted by retaining high‑level employees to decrease the learning curve with respect to innerworkings of the United Nations. Finally, he recalled a statement by the President of the 76th Session of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid: “It is high time for a woman to be elected as the Secretary-General.”
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), associating with ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern that the Security Council is increasingly unable to maintain international peace and security, while the global economy is facing headwinds. Calling for greater coordination across the multiplicity of processes and work streams, he stressed that a coordinated master schedule will minimise overlapping meetings, particularly during times when voting and other election procedures are scheduled. This is especially salient for smaller delegations with fewer resources, which should not be excluded from participating in the mandated processes just because too many events have been allowed to take place at the same time. He also underscored the importance of rationalizing and streamlining the General Assembly’s agenda as well as strengthening the Office of the President of the General Assembly.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador), associating with the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group as well as the Non‑Aligned Movement, said another flagship resolution must be achieved, allowing for further progress. Underscoring the obligation to implement provisions agreed on during negotiations two years ago, he said the best way to demonstrate the efficiency of the General Assembly is by implementing and executing recommendations emanating from that body. Implementation depends on all States and all organs of the United Nations system, he said, stressing the importance of prioritization. Describing the General Assembly as an echo chamber that amplifies narratives of all countries, he emphasized that it is the forum for establishing policies and recommendations. He also noted that improving relations between the General Assembly and Security Council is vital.
BRUNO RÍOS SÁNCHEZ (Mexico) said that nothing can substitute for in‑person diplomacy but underscored that hybrid in‑person and online meetings can facilitate the General‑Assembly’s work. The legislative role of the organ is impeded by application of the rule of consensus, he added, which effectively operates as a veto, blocking the agreed on action of the Assembly. Calling on Member States to find a way to preserve the legitimacy of resolutions adopted by the Assembly, he cited the adoption of the Veto Initiative this year as an example. Through increasing efficiency, the Assembly will no longer need “revitalization” he said, underscoring the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group in this regard.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said that a revitalized General Assembly will meaningfully contribute to shoring up the United Nations system as a whole and to bolstering multilateralism. “Today more than ever before, multilateralism needs to be improved, so that we can be positioned to surmount the challenges that humanity faces in an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world,” he added, stressing the need to ensure the Assembly has the necessary financial and administrative means to carry out its operations. The General Assembly's agenda must align with the aims and goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Morocco welcomes measures that ensure the process of selection for the appointment of the Secretary‑General and other senior United Nations civil servants is inclusive, transparent and effective. He further emphasized the importance of ensuring that the Office of the President of the General Assembly is equipped with adequate human resources. “This is vital both for the smooth operations and for sustaining the institutional memory of the office,” he added.
MITSUKO SHINO (Japan), welcoming the discussion on strengthening accountability and transparency of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, called for solid organizational support from the Secretariat and Member States as well as proper use of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Revitalization for debates and decisions relevant to current global issues. Inviting the Assembly to streamline agendas and consider clustering and eliminating items to promote efficiency, he encouraged further interaction between organs, including complementarity between the General Assembly and the Security Council in the case of a veto, based on resolution 76/262, adopted in April this year. Underscoring the importance of transparency during the selection process of the Secretary‑General, he recalled that his delegation issued a note providing an overview of achievements and lessons learned from the 2016 process.
MR. ALTHAYEDI (Kuwait) invited all parties to address gaps and imbalances as well as develop modernized mechanisms and working methods for the General Assembly. Revitalization and Assembly reform are vital pillars for the overall reform of the Organization, he pointed out, while reaffirming his support for the Ad‑Hoc Working Group. To safeguard the global and comprehensive nature of the Assembly, Member States must prioritize issues of interest and ensure their inclusive promotion. He then spotlighted the need to shed light on the complementary nature between the Assembly and its main committees as well as between the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies. Coordination between these bodies will eliminate overlaps and repetition of agenda items, which will in turn enhance efficiency and effectiveness in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan), associating with the Non‑Aligned Movement, reiterated that the General Assembly is the only United Nations body with universal representation. Its revitalization is vital to promoting world peace, based on indivisible security and sustainable development for all. Underscoring the role of the Assembly in disarmament, international law, and the peaceful settlement of disputes, he said the body should address emerging challenges, such as climate change, the new arms race, governance of global commons, and a digitalized world economy. The Assembly can complement the Security Council’s work in conflict prevention by addressing root causes to achieve long‑term prevention. Highlighting the Assembly’s indelible contribution to the codification of international law, he stressed that the body has made a meaningful impact on the international legal landscape.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) stressed that biennialization and triennalization of items can help reduce the Assembly’s overburdened agenda. As the Assembly’s agenda continues to grow, focus must be on critical issues that require global solutions, such as addressing climate change, driving progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, ending conflict, and protecting human rights. To this end, he welcomed the President’s invitation for delegations to bring concrete suggestions for streamlining the agenda to the next meeting of the General Committee. In addition, the operation of the General Assembly can be improved via measures such as the distribution of timely and comprehensive concept notes in advance of meetings; early access to a live speakers’ list for plenary meetings; and a formal handover meeting between the chairs of the main committees. He also called for closer adherence to speaking time limits during plenary meetings and further increasing women’s representation in meetings.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, echoed the call for the Office of the President of the General Assembly to have necessary financial and human resources. Urging Member States to consider supporting the Office through the regular budget, he also encouraged them to advance women as candidates for the position of President. He then expressed his support for Secretariat initiatives to preserve and further strengthen the Office’s institutional memory. As the Office must not be overburdened, he called for the Organization to streamline its outcomes and coordinate among principal organs and their agendas. Regarding the selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General, he reiterated his country’s preference for a secret ballot in the Assembly. The Security Council should submit more than one candidate for consideration and the Assembly should reflect on and consider appointing future Secretary‑Generals for a longer, but single, non‑renewable term. Executive heads and senior management in the Secretariat should reflect a balanced gender and equitable geographical representation, he added.
MS. LIM (Brunei Darussalam), aligning herself with ASEAN, underscored the vital role of the General Assembly as the most representative organ of the United Nations. No country is immune to the adverse effects of global challenges, she said, while stressing the need for global solutions leaving no one behind. The Assembly’s work must continue to remain relevant, stay fit for its purpose, and be effective and efficient in fulfilling its functions. To that end, Assembly resolution 75/253 provides a good guideline in maintaining the organ’s central role and credibility, she emphasized. Underscoring the need for greater cooperation between the Assembly and the Security Council, she spotlighted resolution 76/262 on the Veto Initiative as a step in the right direction to improve synergies for both bodies. This resolution also broadens discussions on international peace and security to the wider membership, which in turn underscores the Assembly’s central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ, she noted.
JOANNA SYLWIA SKOCZEK (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, stressed the need for a compendium of best practices of previous Assembly Presidents to reinforce that Office’s institutional memory. Turning to the selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General, she said the United Nations can hardly be seen as a trailblazer of women’s empowerment and parity, since it has never had a female Secretary‑General. Moreover, each regional group should have a representative appointed as Secretary‑General on a rotational basis, she said. Equitable and fair gender and geographical balance must also extend to executive heads of the United Nations system and the Senior Management Group, she added, while calling for gender equality to be embedded into the Assembly’s working methods. She then expressed her support for the more active role of the General Committee in the revitalization process.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines), associating with ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of strengthening the accountability, transparency, and institutional memory of the Office of the President of the General Assembly. He advocated for the creation of a permanent core staff for the Office, which will lower the cost of a new team of experts every twelve months. Calling for a transparent and inclusive selective process, timely dialogues and meetings with the candidates as well as fair distribution based on gender and geographical balance, he also supported the proposal for a compendium of best practices on the selection and appointment process for the Secretary‑General.
RICHARD CROKER (United Kingdom) said the Assembly must move from principles to implementation, while emphasizing the need to develop a targeted programme with clear timelines. Member States must take responsibility for putting forward and agreeing on concrete proposals to streamline the Assembly’s agenda, rather than just vocalizing words of support, he stressed. Turning to the selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General, he reiterated his country’s support for a female Secretary‑General, welcoming efforts to increase female candidates in the next election. He underlined the importance of the Assembly’s revitalization in delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As achieving the Sustainable Development Goals can be best accomplished through an inclusive approach, the Assembly must focus on issues that matter to real people for the United Nations and multilateralism to thrive, he stressed.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia) aligning with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of making concrete progress in a time of global challenges. To that end, his country welcomes fruitful debate on the Assembly’s authority and working methods to revitalize the organ. He highlighted elements to consider in this work, including successes, urgent implementation of existing resolutions, particularly those that require follow‑up actions,‑ and action on all pending matters. Further, he called on States to redouble their efforts to come to agreement, adding that the Assembly needs to strive for consensus wherever possible. Underlining that the Assembly is the place where all nations interact to implement goals outlined in the United Nations Charter, he called for renewed solidarity and political will as well as strengthened trust between nations in the spirit of international cooperation.
DANG HOANG GIANG (Viet Nam) aligning himself with statements made by ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the General Assembly is the only United Nations organ representing all Member States, and plays a crucial role in guiding the Organization and international law. He underscored the importance of ensuring continuity between sessions of the Office of the President to enhance institutional power and memory in general. Collaboration between all organs should be strengthened, he said, adding that Member States should receive frequent updates about issues raised. He welcomed progress on a more transparent selection process for the Secretary‑General, based on merit and gender parity, as well as efforts to streamline resolutions and reporting requirements. To further revitalize efforts, he said that discussions held must be results‑oriented, with specific outcomes to meet the Member States’ needs.
PAVEL EVSEENKO (Belarus), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that principles of multilateralism, transparency, accountability, good faith and cooperation need to remain the bedrock for the work of the United Nations. There is a need to avoid duplication in the work of the General Assembly, its main committees and Economic and Social Council, he added. Belarus welcomes proposals for measures geared towards democratizing the process of selecting and appointing the Secretary‑General and other senior officials. To strengthen the institutional memory of the Office of the President of the Assembly, the outgoing president should inform the incoming one of experiences gained and lessons drawn from previous sessions.
SURENDRA KUMAR ADHANA (India) spotlighted the growing perception that the General Assembly has lost its foundational responsibilities and has instead become overrun with processes. Attempts to discuss thematic issues in the Security Council have also undermined the role and authority of the Assembly, he noted. The Assembly can only be revitalized, he continued, when its position as the primary deliberative policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations is respected in letter and spirit. To that end, the Assembly must take the lead in setting the global agenda. Member States must remain vigilant in ensuring that body retains its leadership role, while strengthening its capacities to address global challenges. There must be more effective working methods and better and inclusive engagement amongst States during negotiations, he urged. As multipolarity, rebalancing, fair globalization, and reformed multilateralism cannot be kept in abeyance, he emphasized the need to reform the Council, resolve its anachronistic and ineffective nature and readdress its geographical unfairness.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) said any attempts to undermine the Assembly’s role through perceived encroachment must be countered. Efforts to make the body more focused and relevant must streamline its agenda, improve practices and working methods of the main committees, enhance the role of the General Committee, strengthen the authority of the President and examine the selection process for the Secretary‑General. Highlighting difficulties of smaller delegations, he suggested that side events organized in parallel with the General Debate be kept to a minimum. While Member States are entitled to make general statements, explanations of vote and rights of reply, he noted that the exploitation of this right has resulted in extended time frames and increased support services. There should be more consultations between the Secretariat and Member States on structuring the program of work, he said. He then encouraged the President to minimize the duplication of questions by using the informal dialogue format.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) stressed the importance of enhancing the General Assembly’s methods through the fine‑tuning of its work. She supported the initiative to lessen the burden of the high‑level week. The revitalization process should not result in redistribution or duplication of the work of the Assembly, she emphasized, supporting strict compliance with relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations on main responsibilities of the Security Council for maintenance of international peace and security. She categorically objected to the use of the Assembly platform for public relations campaigns, which are geared towards demonization of certain Member States. Such measures undermine the Assembly, she asserted, criticizing efforts by certain Western States to openly exert pressure on the body and transform it into a tool to advance their agenda.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) highlighted the full availability of the Ad Hoc Working Group, of which she is Co‑Chair, in efforts to revitalize the work of the General Assembly. She said that the Group has focused on implementing Resolution 75/325, which tackles the functioning and authority of the Assembly and its working methods. Recalling the Co‑Chairs’ August letter on the subject, she highlighted suggestions, including the need to continue debating on guaranteeing the functioning of the Assembly in case of disruption, integrating new technology platforms to minimize challenges in Member States’ participation, and ensuring gender parity and geographical representation in all Assembly and Committee meetings. In its current session, she said that the Group will also tackle accountability, transparency and institutional memory.
Highlighting Singapore’s call to boldly drive innovation forward, she said that negotiating the draft resolution on revitalization is a crucial task, inviting States to collaborate with the Group. Revitalization efforts must also be considered in other committees to improve working methods and streamline the Assembly’s agenda, she added. This continuous process needs the participation of all Member States to produce concrete results, she said, underscoring the need to study past successes and challenges to ensure the Assembly’s relevance.
FATIMA MAADA BIO, First Lady of Sierra Leone, introducing the draft resolution titled “World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence” (A/77/L.8), said that children, especially girls, are at risk of experiencing forced sex, sexual exploitation, abuse and violence. The prevalence of child sexual abuse, and attendant consequences associated with the scourge, has placed the crime among the twenty‑four risk factors identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as substantively contributing to the global burden of disease. The heightening incidence of chronic disease associated with child sexual exploitation, abuse and violence adversely impact gross domestic product (GDP) growth and economic and social development, especially among developing nations.
Effective approaches to preventing the menace include supporting parents, teaching positive parenting skills, and increasing awareness among Governments, international organizations and civil society on actions that combat child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence, she continued. Adopting the resolution to declare 18 November World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence, will increase awareness of child sexual abuse. By adopting the draft resolution, Member States will commit to mobilizing Governments, international organizations and civil society to promote a greater understanding of the impact of childhood sexual abuse on victims, their families and communities. Eliminating the shame and stigma associated with child sexual abuse by elevating the voices of victims and survivors is vital, she said. She further commended Nigeria’s role in facilitating the process that led to the tabling of the draft resolution.
The observer for the Holy See commended the resolution’s focus on the inalienable dignity of children and their right to live free from violence. The inauguration of a day to underscore the importance of ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children is warmly welcomed, he said.