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The 70th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) held its closing plenary, adopting a consensus resolution to improve the transparency and accountability of the Office of the UNGA President.

UNGA 71 then opened with the incoming President, Peter Thomson, becoming the first in UN history to take an Oath of Office.

ga-71-logo13 September 2016: The 70th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) held its closing plenary, adopting a consensus resolution to improve the transparency and accountability of the Office of the UNGA President. UNGA 71 then opened with the incoming President, Peter Thomson of Fiji, becoming the first in UN history to take an Oath of Office.

Outgoing UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft said, “Relentless and integrated implementation of SDGs and climate action is an absolute necessity” to avoid a future of diversion, destruction and crises,” in his closing statement, reflecting that achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will require going beyond UNGA 70’s achievements to reverse current trends on peace, security and respect for human rights. He highlighted UNGA 70’s work to ensure a more solid follow-up and review framework for the 2030 Agenda, and called on Member States to “consider how best to re-align the agenda for the UNGA in light of the SDGs.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised UNGA 70 for adopting the 2030 Agenda, and highlighted the session’s achievements, including: agreeing on the outcome of the High-Level Plenary Meeting on Refugees and Migrants; holding thematic debates on human rights, peace and security and the plight of children and youth affected by violent extremism; reviewing the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy; and promoting a rights-based approach to the world drug problem. He concluded by expressing hope that UNGA 71 will build on these achievements by “striving to resolve conflict, protect human rights and advance prosperity for all on a healthy planet.”

Opening UNGA 71, Ban stressed that the world looks to the UN to not simply react to problems but to proactively work to better the human condition. He highlighted upcoming events on refugees and migrants, climate change and the SDGs. The theme of the 71st General Debate, as proposed by Thomson, will be ‘The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A Universal Push to Transform our World.’

In his opening address to the Assembly, Thomson said UNGA 71 must be the time “we witness the wheels turning on the implementation of all 17 SDGs.” Thomson observed that some governments have begun integrating the 2030 Agenda into national processes, but stressed that the “great majority of humankind has yet to learn of the Agenda” or embrace the SDGs. He called on Member States to provide clear guidance through the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) process, and said he will work to revitalize and align the UNGA’s agenda with the 2030 Agenda. Thomson informed that his SDG implementation team will work to advance implementation, including on issues related to finance and resourcing, education, outreach and partnerships.

Observing that “the link between sustainable development, peace and security, and human rights has never been more explicit,” Thomson said he will “encourage a heightening” of the UNGA’s human rights work, including at the High-Level Meeting on large movements of refugees and migrants, which will convene on 19 September 2016. He concluded by calling for strong willpower among humanity to achieve, by 2030, a world with sustainable, affordable energy, decent work with resilient infrastructure, and a planet that has taken action to combat climate change and restore ecosystems, among other aims.

On the selection process for a new UN Secretary-General, Ban praised Lykketoft for shining light on the process through informal dialogues with candidates. Lykketoft expressed hope that this “transparency proves instrumental in identifying the best possible new Secretary-General.” He said he has sent a letter to the Security Council summarizing the UNGA’s process and lessons learned, and recommending the appointment of co-facilitators to prepare an appointment resolution during UNGA 71. Thomson thanked Lykketoft for bringing “new levels of transparency and opennesss to the UN,” including through his leadership in the Secretary-General selection process, and committed to facilitating the transition process.

In a Resolution adopted also on 13 September, the UNGA decides the president-elect would take an oath of office, observe a code of ethics and provide financial disclosures on assumption and completion of duties. The Resolution, contained in document A/70/1003, ‘the Report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the revitalization of the Work of the UNGA,’ requests the UN Secretary-General to make staff programme budget resources available from the date of the election and to submit proposals to review the President’s Office’s budget allocation. The resolution further addresses a package of actions to strengthen the integrity of the President’s Office and the UN itself, including on the selection and appointment of the Secretary-General and other executive Heads. [UN Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNGA 70 President Statement] [UNGA 71 President Statement] [Summary of Meeting to Adopt Resolution] [Report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the revitalization of the Work of the UNGA] [Webcast of Closing of UNGA 70] [Webcast of Opening of UNGA 71] [Peter Thomson Biographical Note]


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