21 May 2019
Candidate for UNGA Presidency Promises Inclusion, UNSC Reform Push
Photo by IISD/Mike Muzurakis
story highlights

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Permanent Representative of Nigeria and the first candidate for president of the UNGA’s 74th session, said the SDGs and the Paris Agreement are the most important UN achievements, and need renewed momentum.

He expressed support for the participation of civil society in UNGA events and for conversations on ways to engage with the private sector, noting that he will work to incorporate human rights in everything the UNGA does.

He underscored the need to urge Member States to reform the UN Security Council.

13 May 2019: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) held an informal interactive dialogue with Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Permanent Representative of Nigeria and the first candidate for President of the UNGA’s 74th session. From the reform of the UN Security Council to inclusion and human rights and plans for high-level events in 2019 and 2020, Member States inquired about his plans and envisioned measures.

In September 2017, through its resolution on the ‘Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly’ (71/323), the Assembly decided to conduct informal interactive dialogues with candidates for the position of UNGA President. The Assembly requested candidates to present their vision statements for circulation to UN Member States in advance of the interactive dialogues.

During the interactive dialogue held on 13 May 2019, Muhammad-Bande said the UN is the most important and most substantive global governance body in the world. He underlined that dealing with terrorism, pandemics and global warming necessitate a multilateral approach, for which the UN is essential. “We at the UN cannot be skeptical or indifferent,” he added. He noted that the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change are the most important UN achievements, and stressed the need for renewed momentum for implementation, especially SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger) and 4 (quality education). He also called for a focus on inclusion, especially of women and youth. He underscored the need for reform of the UN Security Council.

In the ensuing discussion, Ghana, Ireland, Liberia, Malta, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Singapore and South Africa expressed “full” support for Muhammad-Bande’s candidature. The EU asked how the candidate intends to take action on human rights and gender inequality and, supported by civil society, ensure a stronger engagement of civil society organizations, including human rights defenders, in the UNGA’s work. He also inquired about Muhammad-Bande’s plans to: streamline duplicative events and, supported by Italy, support the Secretary-General’s reforms; advance implementation of the Global Compact on Migration; and commemorate the UN’s 75th anniversary.

Switzerland asked about plans to involve youth and civil society in the celebration of UN’s 75th Anniversary and to implement gender inequality in the UNGA’s work, including in the President’s Office. Singapore and Tunisia requested reducing the number of high-level meetings during the UNGA. The Philippines asked about plans to carry on momentum after the September 2019 Climate Action Summit.

Norway, supported by the Philippines and civil society organizations, asked about plans to advance SDG implementation. Supported by South Africa, Norway inquired about the candidate’s intentions for addressing international financial flows (IFFs). Djibouti and India asked for information on his plans for making the UNGA more action-oriented on terrorism, especially with regard to the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

Ireland asked about plans for the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and for linking education with peace and security. Kazakhstan inquired about actions for bringing together peace, security and development, and Slovakia asked about plans to advance the sustaining peace agenda.

Italy, for the United for Consensus Group, supported by Liechtenstein and France, stressed that the reform of the UN Security Council is of “the highest priority.” Lebanon inquired if nuclear proliferation would be part of the candidate’s agenda and whether he would favor moving issues blocked in the UN Security Council to the UNGA.

Paraguay, for the landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), inquired how the candidate plans to integrate LLDCs in his work in light of the importance of 2019 for LLDCs, referring to the mid-term review of the Vienna Programme of Action (VPoA). Thailand, for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), asked about his vision for the role of regional organizations. Belarus and Philippines asked about plans to cooperate with middle income countries (MICs). Bangladesh, for the least developed countries (LDCs), inquired about plans to support LDCs in their graduation process in partnership with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Egypt said it is pleased with the planned focus on the African region, and called for the next UNGA President to ensure synergies with the work of the African Union (AU) and its Agenda 2063.

Canada, for Canada, Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), asked the candidate how he will foster the partnerships needed to advance the UN’s agenda. Ecuador asked about addressing disability-related issues. Civil society asked about Muhammad-Bande’s commitment to protecting children’s rights. Chile inquired about openness to holding human rights sessions in the UNGA.

Slovakia asked about measures to accelerate the revitalization of the UNGA and engage with the Secretary-General’s strategy on youth. US asked what concrete measures the Muhammad-Bande will take to ensure coherence among committees and UN bodies. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain supported continuation of the morning dialogues with the UNGA President.

Andorra, supported by France, asked about plans to promote multilingualism. Mexico inquired about plans to ensure the UNGA addresses science, technology and innovation in a way that does not leave anyone behind.

Supported by Algeria and Libya, Saudi Arabia stressed that the issue of Palestine needs prominent focus, and called for deliberations on the permanent membership of the state of Palestine in the UN.

France remarked that protecting the environment and climate are the most pressing global urgent priorities, and have not been sufficiently emphasized.

Responding to the queries and comments, Muhammad-Bande said that, on inclusion, he will: make sure that no one is excluded in the compisition of his team; ensure gender balance; and support the work of UN Women. He expressed support for the participation of civil society in events convened by the UNGA President, and for conversations on ways to engage with the private sector.

He noted that he will work to ensure that human rights are incorporated into everything UNGA does. On migration, he said the UNGA needs to use the review mechanism for the Global Compact on Migration to see what does and does not work in the Compact’s implementation.

On minimizing the number of high-level events happening during UNGA week, the candidate invited further reflection by the UNGA membership when it comes to mandating such events.

With regards to Palestine, Muhammad-Bande said it is important to recognize the two-state solution. He further underscored the need to urge Member States to reform the UN Security Council. He concluded by affirming that he would continue to hold the morning dialogues with the UNGA membership.

Following dialogues with the candidates, the election of the President is expected to take place in early June 2019. [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Muhammad-Bande’s Candidacy] [Letter on Interactive Dialogue] [Webcast of Dialogue]

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