Opening of the 74th session of the General Assembly
Statement by H.E. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande President
of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly
24 September 2018
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the General Debate of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Your presence is a veritable testament to the primacy of this great multilateral body. The issues herein raised are most critical and increasingly urgent for the attainment of international peace and security, as well as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We have remained for too long at the crossroads of human development, and if we will propel humanity to attain its utmost capacity, then, we need to join efforts in finding solutions to the untold hardship from violent conflicts, terrorism, natural disasters, drug and sex trafficking, illiteracy, and so on which millions of people around the world suffer from.
2. In 1945, rising from the ashes of the Second World War, this Organization was created to ensure that never again will we traverse that destructive path. Despite occasional failings on our part, much good has happened to humanity, because of the work of this great Organization.
3. Excellencies, our most recent achievement is the adoption of the transformative and ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. The implementation of the SDGs by 2030 must be our priority, in the interest of the billions of people who may never step inside this great Hall, but who hope that the work undertaken here would galvanize efforts for poverty eradication, zero hunger, quality education, climate action and inclusion. Achieving our targets under the SDGs requires cooperation in both financing and the sharing of experience. Without doubt, the challenges posed by health pandemics, terrorism, displacement, climate change, as well as illiteracy and poverty, will not be resolved by individual countries as they all require focused cooperation to stem. As President of the 74th Session, I will work with all delegations, and with the other organs of the United Nations, to advance the implementation of the priorities which I have set out for the 74th Session of the General Assembly.
4. The promotion of international peace and security is at the heart of the work of the United Nations. We must continue to strengthen the Organization by ensuring that its peace and security architecture is appropriate for the 21st century, particularly making a
priority of prevention. Drivers of conflict such as poverty, inequality, human rights abuses, lack of access to education and employment opportunities, must be tackled head-on. Through proper sharing of ideas and functional partnerships, we can address them successfully.
5. Poverty eradication remains a great challenge globally. While many countries around the world have succeeded in taking millions out of poverty, we have to do more to take hundreds of millions more out of abject poverty, misery, and squalid existence. Accordingly, I urge you to reflect specifically on how your countries can, among other things, ensure improved social protection systems and channel a significant proportion of government spending to hitherto marginalized or excluded groups, who are most affected by poverty. In addition, countries need to cooperate on the development of entrepreneurial capacity and in the modernization of agriculture.
6. The fact that poverty and food shortages around the world have been exacerbated by climate change means that special focus must be placed on tackling climate change; as the repercussions of not acting pose grave dangers for our world, now and in future. These dangers are evident in the financial and human impact that climate related disasters like floods, cyclones, hurricanes, droughts and wildfires, cause around the world. We need to deploy the knowledge and technologies available to us to ensure that we do not condemn our children to an irreparable world. I call for cooperation among nations to ensure that coalitions for climate resilience and mitigation actions are formed and strengthened. Accordingly, we should deliver on our commitments made in Paris in 2015 and devise creative ways of bridging the huge financial and technical gaps required for meaningful impact.
7. Ensuring access to free and quality primary and secondary education, as well as affordable and inclusive vocational and technical education, is vital. This is imperative, given the reality that no nation can develop beyond its educational capacity, particularly the capacity of its teachers. In this regard, there is an immediate need, among others, to ensure that students around the world are taught by qualified teachers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as in the humanities. I urge countries endowed and better placed to deepen cooperation with those currently in greater need of capacity development of their teachers. In addition, there is need to reflect on the gains that have been made, and opportunities that are available to the girl child and disabled children.
8. Ensuring inclusion, particularly as it relates to the rights and empowerment of youth, women and the disabled is the right thing to do. It is also a guarantor of the expansion of the economy and the accentuation of inclusion in all countries. While many countries have made considerable advancement in this aspect, all countries have ample room for improvement in this direction.
9. Clearly, Excellencies, effectively implementing the aforementioned would require that we never relapse into the bitter rivalries of the past, while prioritizing cooperation, mutual interest and respect. We must pool our resources and energies and try harder to urgently address major global challenges confronting humanity. Accordingly, it is important that we continue to strengthen South-South, as well as triangular, cooperation to reinforce the work of the United Nations.
10. Evidence abounds that we can do great things if we are courageous, steadfast and show empathy. From Mahatma Ghandi who led a successful campaign for India’s independence to the young Greta Thunberg who leads the demand for action on the climate; from Nelson Mandela who stood resolutely and saw to the dismantling of Apartheid to Malala Yousafzai who, against all odds, insisted on her rights to education; from Martin Luther King Jr. a Baptist Minister and leader of the civil rights movement to Abubakar Abdullahi, a Nigerian Imam, who saved the lives of over 250 Christians when they fled to his community during an attack on a community in Nigeria, to the various acts of courage and generosity of ordinary people in all countries, we are reminded that hope is not lost.
11. In conclusion, we should not forget that the fact that we stand in this magnificent hall today, in the presence of leaders from around the globe, to debate how best to achieve the world of our collective dream, is a remarkable feat in itself. I am certain that during the remainder of this event-packed week, which will see us all shuttling between the various halls and meeting rooms of our great Organization, we will be giving focused attention to the suffering of billions of people around the world and crafting stronger cooperation that is essential to creating a world where in concert, and in line with the founding principles of this great Organization, we give succour and hope to all people and nations for a more peaceful and prosperous world. There is great work to be done; we have no room for either cynicism or apathy. We should strive together, to deliver for all.