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Multilateralism is alive and well: Assembly President wraps up annual debate promising ‘active and inclusive’ 76th session

Amidst the global COVID-19 crisis, the President of the General Assembly closed the UN High-Level session on Monday, crediting “sound mitigation measures” and high vaccination rates for its success.

Noting that the UN has “taken its biggest, boldest step yet to emerge from the pandemic”, Abdulla Shahid said: “We must build upon this success and continue momentum”.

“Yet, our true measure of success remains our willingness and ability to engage in dialogue and to put our faith in the multilateral system”, he said.

‘In-person diplomacy’

Mr. Shahid reported that over the last week 194 speakers took the iconic green marble podium, including 100 Heads of State, 52 Heads of Government, three Vice-Presidents, and 34 Ministers.

“I trust you are as encouraged as I am by the strong showing of our return to in-person diplomacy”, said the Assembly President, delighted that the UN’s halls and cafeterias were again “filled with dialogue…debate…laughter…and compromise”.

However, flagging that of this year’s 194 speakers, only 18 were women, he emphasized that more must be done to balance the scales.

“I have already held a dedicated discussion with female Heads of State and Government, as well as the European Union (EU), on how to boost gender equality”, he said.

Recurring concerns

While a great deal was discussed over the last week, a clear set of issues arose time and again, namely COVID-19, climate change, peace, security and the risks of instability.

“The fact that each of these issues were so predominant speaks volumes as to what the world wants”, said Mr. Shahid, adding that the UN must now address these concerns “in a manner that turns every challenge into an opportunity… an opportunity to strengthen multilateralism and deliver results on ground”.

He underscored that “there is no time for complacency. The world is demanding more action and not less”.

With high-level meetings planned on COVID-19, climate, and the environment, as well as efforts to empower women, girls and youth, the Assembly President looked forward to “an active and an inclusive session”.

Two truths

In closing, he observed that “two truths” were displayed throughout the session, beginning with the fact that everyone shares the same concerns and unwavering commitment to overcome obstacles.

“However much we may disagree on tactics, our end goal is very much the same”, assured Mr. Shahid.

His second observation was that multilateralism “is indeed alive and well”.

Evidenced by the reality that so many have come, spoken, engaged, deliberated and argued, he described it as “a sign of a world that continues to believe in dialogue and diplomacy, and that reposes its faith in a United Nations that is able and ready”.

“Let’s derive our hope from these truths and work with a sense of responsibility and determination for the rest of the 76th session”, concluded the Assembly President.

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