Speakers Welcome Biennialization of Formerly Annual Resolution, Praise Efforts to Modernize, Streamline United Nations’ Most Representative Organ
Delegates addressing the General Assembly today lauded concrete steps taken by the organ’s ad hoc working group on revitalization, stressing that a more streamlined Assembly is crucial to ensure the United Nations can help people grappling with the real-life impact of complex global challenges, from the COVID‑19 pandemic to the climate crisis and beyond.
General Assembly President Abdullah Shahid (Maldives), opening the debate, said it is incumbent on the 193-member organ to examine itself, as a stronger Assembly will lead to a stronger United Nations. Indeed, the Assembly is “what Member States make it out to be”, he said, adding that countries must explore innovations to revitalize the United Nations most representative organ and identify areas where progress can be achieved to strengthen multilateralism.
Speakers throughout the debate echoed those sentiments, with many welcoming recent streamlining decisions taken by the Assembly’s ad hoc working group on revitalization. Those included the decision to examine the formerly annual resolution on revitalization biennially, thereby providing Member States with more time to focus on substantive issues. Delegates also called for renewed efforts to eliminate overlap and duplication between the agendas of the Assembly’s six Main Committees and those of other principal organs of the United Nations, and for all those bodies to adopt agendas that are better aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The representative of India said some Member States have come to feel that the Assembly has lost touch with its core mission, instead becoming overwhelmed by procedure. Some of the blame lies with the Assembly and Member States themselves, as they have allowed their message to be diluted. Against that backdrop, he emphasized that the Assembly’s mission must be respected in letter and spirit as it takes the lead in adopting a multilateral approach to solve global challenges. “We need to trust ourselves more to do the right thing,” he stressed.
Speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia’s delegate underscored the Assembly’s fundamental role as the United Nations most representative organ. Turning to the nuts-and-bolts working methods that allow the Assembly to carry out its functions, he said gaps, overlaps and duplications of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development must be corrected. In that context, he called for regular and closer consultation among the Chairs of the Assembly’s six Main Committees as well as innovative measures to make Committee debates more focused and interactive.
The representative of Slovakia said revitalization, as one of the Assembly’s toughest mandated processes, requires a constructive approach from every Member State. Stressing the importance of abandoning long-used stereotypes and patterns, he welcomed the ad hoc working group’s decision regarding the biennialization of the Assembly’s long-standing revitalization resolution, noting that the necessity of reaching a consensual text on the issue takes up a significant amount of the Assembly’s time. He further urged Member States to seize lessons learned from the COVID‑19 pandemic to modernize the Assembly’s work.
Turning to another important issue, Mexico’s representative disagreed with some parties who disdain or minimize decisions of the General Assembly as non-binding or having no impact on ground. Noting that its resolutions guide public policy decisions and are a thermometer for global opinion, she said that while some Member States do not consider Assembly resolutions legitimate if they are adopted by a vote, voting remains a fundamental part of any democratic process.
The representative of the United States said the revitalization process should focus on improving the Assembly’s transparency, efficiency and accessibility and give all stakeholders a seat at the table. Physical barriers to United Nations Headquarters should be eliminated to ensure access for all delegates, including those with disabilities, and a universal design should be used for all documents produced by the United Nations. He also advocated for the use of common technologies to improve e-registration and working methods, adding that “we must remain nimble” to respond to the world’s evolving realities.
Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation said it is essential to depoliticize the two topics on the ad hoc working group’s 2021 agenda ‑ namely, the role and powers of the General Assembly and the improvement of its working methods. Noting that the Assembly suffers less from a lack of political will than from a lack of attention to the degree of feasibility of its resolutions, she said the organ’s politicization and divisiveness is illustrated by its unrealistic resolutions and called for more consensus building and diplomatic skill.
Also speaking today were the representatives of New Zealand (also on behalf of Australia and Canada), Mongolia, Algeria (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Maldives, Ukraine, Singapore, Morocco, Bangladesh, Ecuador, China, Belarus, Indonesia, South Africa, Philippines, El Salvador, Pakistan, Australia, the United Kingdom and Syria.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, also participated.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 10 November, to consider the report of the International Criminal Court.