UNGA Transitions from 72nd to 73rd Session, Takes on Seven Priority Themes
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UNGA 72 President Miroslav Lajcak reflected on six trends throughout his presidency in his final address to the Assembly: peace; climate change and sustainable development; migration; UN reform; dialogue; and multilateralism.

UNGA 73 President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces outlined seven priority themes for the session, to: promote gender equality; promote and implement new global compacts on migration and refugees; highlight innovative thinking around the future of work; effort to protect the environment, particularly plastics pollution; raise awareness on persons with disabilities; implement the reform of the UN system; and promote peace.

18 September 2018: The president of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Miroslav Lajcak, has officially handed over the presidency to María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés of Ecuador. The UNGA’s 73rd regular session opened on 18 September, and under Espinosa’s presidency expected to prioritize gender equality, implementation of global compacts on migration and refugees, the future of work, plastics pollution, disabilities, peace, and UN reform.

In his address at the closing of the 72nd UNGA, on 17 September, Lajcak highlighted six trends that he observed throughout his presidency. On peace, he noted a shift from a reactive approach to a more proactive approach of “sustaining peace.” On the planet, Lajcak said climate change was the “most frequently referenced item on the agenda” at the 72nd general debate, with 85% of Heads of State and delegations speaking about it. He warned that the world is not on track to achieve the SDGs, nor the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and called for increased leadership and funding to deliver on these commitments. On migration, he welcomed progress on the Global Compact for Migration, noting that the agreement recognizes migration as a shared responsibility of all countries. Lajcak welcomed the UNGA’s adoption of proposals for reform in the areas of peace and security, management and development. He also called for matching “a growing appetite for reform” with sufficient funding. On dialogue, the UNGA President cautioned against “shrinking space for global dialogue,” emphasizing the importance of leaders’ talking through their differences. Lajcak also stressed multilateralism as critical for the future.

Lajcak noted that an effort is underway to formalize the “morning dialogues” initiative that he began during his presidency. The dialogues provided a platform for UN permanent representatives to meet and discuss topics in an informal, honest and personal way. He expressed hope that the UNGA will continue to prioritize a focus on people, gender balance and empowerment of women, inclusivity and accessibility, and high ethical standards and transparency.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres congratulated Lajcak on his leadership and Member States on completing a “very productive” UNGA session. Guterres reflected that the 72nd general debate had been the first in over a decade at which all Member States spoke, providing “a sign of welcome engagement at the highest level and of faith in the value of this unique and universal body.”

Opening UNGA 73 on 18 September, Espinosa thanked Lajcak for his “instructive and inspirational” leadership, and expressed a commitment to continuing the morning dialogues with Member States and the monthly coordination meeting with the principle organs of the UN. She confirmed her intention to work closely with the UN Secretary-General to implement the reform agenda in accordance with the mandates of Member States, and to lead revitalization and alignment processes to ensure greater coordination, coherence, efficiency and delivery capacity. In addition, Espinosa said she will focus on making the UN “relevant to all people” by making the public more aware of the UN’s work and goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Espinosa said monitoring and evaluation of progress towards the SDGs will be another key priority for UNGA 73.

Espinosa said the Assembly will address 330 resolutions and hold over 100 plenary sessions as well as “innumerable working sessions and negotiations in pursuit of consensus agreements.” She outlined seven priority themes for the session, to: promote gender equality; promote and implement new global compacts on migration and refugees; highlight innovative thinking around the future of work; effort to protect the environment, particularly plastics pollution; raise awareness on persons with disabilities; implement the reform of the UN system; and promote peace.

In his remarks at the opening of UNGA 73, UN Secretary-General Guterres highlighted important agenda items for the Assembly, including needed action on financing for the 2030 Agenda, gender parity, empowerment for the world’s young people, urgent steps to end poverty and conflict and peacekeeping. He observed that climate impacts continue to worsen and accelerate and said “actions and ambition are nowhere near where they need to be to avoid catastrophe.” He urged leaders to ensure that the December UN Climate Change Meetings are a success. He further looked forward to the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. [UN news story on closing of UNGA 72] [UN meeting coverage of UNGA 72 closing] [UN meeting coverage of UNGA 73 opening] [Lajcak’s closing statement] [UN Secretary-General’s statement] [Lajcak press briefing] [Lajcak interview] [Espinosa interview] [UNGA 73 presidency website] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on 73rd president’s election] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on guidance for 73rd general debate] [Biographical note]


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