1st Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 74th Session

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17-Sep-2019 00:21:15
Outlining top priorities, new General Assembly President highlights critical work in combating poverty, climate change, as he opens Seventy-Fourth session at 1st plenary meeting.

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Opening the General Assembly’s seventy-fourth session today, newly elected President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria) underlined the 193-member organ’s central role in eradicating poverty, combating climate change and empowering vulnerable people around the globe.

“We must never forget that the world looks up to the United Nations” as a vehicle for the realization of peace and security, development and human rights, said Mr. Muhammad-Bande, outlining his priorities for the session. Advocating for effective conflict mediation efforts and the early settlement of disputes, he pledged to strive to address the drivers of conflict, including poverty, in his work. He urged Member States to share their experiences on such issues as education, health care and climate change, as well as the ways that social security systems can help the world’s most vulnerable people escape the “debilitating web of poverty”.

Noting that no country can develop past its educational capacity, he called on Member States to ensure access to free, high quality primary and secondary education. Meanwhile, climate change remains another key development challenge, and its causes and repercussions must be tackled. Underlining the need to empower youth, women and other vulnerable groups around the world – as well as to forge new partnerships and fill development financing gaps – he noted that the Assembly will open its annual high-level debate on 24 September alongside critical summits on health care, climate change and other topics. Their outcomes will guide the Assembly’s work throughout the seventy-fourth session. As the United Nations most representative organ, the Assembly should help build trust and empathy among Member States, he stressed, adding: “This is the only way to address the challenges before us.”

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said Mr. Muhammad-Bande brings to his new role valuable insights into today’s pressing peace and security, human rights and sustainable development challenges. Citing a busy year ahead - beginning with several high-level summits opening on 23 September - he said the Organization will mark its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2020. The year will also be crucial for action on the Sustainable Development Goals and building urgent ambition on climate change. “We have to convince people that the United Nations is relevant to all, and that multilateralism offers real solutions to global challenges,” he stressed, spotlighting a trust deficit between nations as a central concern. Calling for greater transparency, dialogue and understanding, he described the Assembly as a unique and indispensable forum where the world can come together to push forward on sensitive and important issues.

In other business, the Assembly took note of a letter from the Secretary-General (document A/74/327) informing the Assembly President that three Member States are in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter. Article 19 states that a Member State in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions will have no vote in the Assembly if the amount of those arrears exceeds the amount of the contributions due from the preceding two years.

The Assembly also decided that its Credentials Committee will consist of the following nine Member States: Barbados, Botswana, China, Mauritius, Nepal, Russian Federation, San Marino, United States and Uruguay.

On that matter, the representative of Honduras said her delegation stands for equality in the General Assembly, including the principle of equitable geographic rotation. Emphasizing that all States in the United Nations are equal – no matter how large or small – she stressed that no country should presume to hold more rights than others. That includes holding an office more than once, while other States are relegated to a waiting list. Assuming such identical rights, she warned that no country should be subject to bias and called for free, transparent elections to United Nations bodies. While not all transgressions might be evident today, she cautioned that “if we are truly here to make a difference for humanity” the Organization should make amends and ensure that the principle of equality prevails in its work.

Assembly members then authorized the following subsidiary organs of the General Assembly to meet at United Nations Headquarters in New York during the session: United Nations Appeals Tribunal; Independent Audit Advisory Committee; Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace in the Context of International Security; Open-ended Working Group on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security; Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Committee on Relations with the Host Country; conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; and the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)/United Nations Office for Project Services (UNPOS) (document A/74/340).

The General Assembly’s seventy-fourth session will reconvene for its second plenary meeting at 10 a.m. on Friday, 20 September.

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