25 September 2017: The opening weeks of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) have brought a high level of dialogue among high-level officials at UN Headquarters in New York, US. For the first time in 11 years, all UN Member States and observers addressed the UNGA during its opening, high-level General Debate, with a total of 196 statements delivered in the UNGA hall. In addition, between 15-25 September, 421 meetings convened in UN conference rooms, and 1,528 bilateral meetings took place.

The high-level General Debate opened on 19 September 2017. In his opening statement to the General Debate, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that “trust could be restored if people worked together.” He also highlighted threats facing the global community, especially the present nuclear peril.

During the week-long Debate, Heads of State and Government highlighted concerns and efforts to address national, regional and global challenges.

During the week-long Debate, Heads of State and Government highlighted concerns ranging from nuclear conflict between the US and North Korea to climate change, terrorism and mass displacement. Challenges resulting from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean were also stressed.

Efforts to address the challenges were also highlighted. For example, the President of Mali noted that security challenges in his region had led to the establishment of the “Group of 5 for the Sahel” (Sahel G-5), though which Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad set up a joint force to fight against transnational organized crime, trafficking and related issues. While the President of the US characterized the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran as an “embarrassment” to the US, the President of Iran said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action could become a model for global interactions based on mutual constructive engagement.

The President of the European Council of the European Union (EU) noted that the Paris Agreement on climate change is the cornerstone of global efforts to tackle climate change. The President of Kiribati highlighted the need for easier access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Speakers supported the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the Assembly’s recent establishment of a UN Office of Counter-Terrorism. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone stressed the role of mediation efforts in his country for achieving a cessation of hostilities, credible ceasefire agreements and the deployment of peacekeeping missions. Mozambique stressed that “unregulated migration and massive refugee flows were in large part due to unresolved crises or poorly settled conflicts,” and said the Security Council is “a fundamental pillar for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

On the final day, Iran and Myanmar exercised the right of reply. [UN Press Release, 19 September][UN Press Release, 20 September][UN Press Release, 21 September][UN Press Release, 22 September 2017][UN Press Release, 23 September][UN Press Release, 25 September]

In his closing remarks on 25 September 2017, UNGA President Miroslav Lajčák said that he had heard “overwhelming support for the proposal to prioritize peace and prevention,” which is one of his priorities for the year. He also highlighted that speakers discussed efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), emphasized the life or death nature of addressing climate change, and reaffirmed their commitment to the UN and each other.

Lajčák also called attention to upcoming events during UNGA 72, including high-level events on human trafficking, in September 2017, and on sustaining peace, in April 2018, as well as the expected adoption of Global Compacts related to Migrants and Refugees in September 2018. Meeting from 27-28 September, the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Human Trafficking will appraise progress in implementing the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. [UNGA President’s closing remarks]