16 January 2018
UNGA President Sets Out Vision for 2018
Photo by IISD/Mike Muzurakis
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UNGA President Miroslav Lajcak stressed the importance of broad support for the global compact on migration, on which intergovernmental negotiations will begin on 20 February 2018.

He also highlighted sustaining peace, SDG implementation, UN reforms, human rights, and defending the United Nations' "very purpose" among his priorities for the remaining eight months of the 72nd session.

12 January 2018: UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak enumerated several ambitions for the remainder of the 72nd session. He also urged Member States to “push back” against threats to multilateralism and the “very purpose of the UN.”

Among the achievements Lajcak has prioritized for the next eight months, he first highlighted the global compact on migration. He said that the Puerto Vallarta stocktaking meeting in December 2017 had ended the year “on a constructive note,” but the negotiations, which will begin on 20 February 2018, will test Member States’ ability to “compromise, mobilize support at home, and move a bit closer to the middle.” Lajcak stressed the importance of broad support for the compact, saying, “Yes, the Compact will be negotiated in a room like this, but it is the people not in these rooms … who will implement it, and be affected by it.”

Lajcak also drew attention to the UNGA high-level meeting on sustaining peace, taking place on 24-25 April 2018. He said it will serve as a “greenhouse” for partnerships, promote a focus on conflict prevention, and encourage applying a “lens of peace” to everything the UN does. The February 2018 report of the UN Secretary-General on sustaining peace, he said, is expected to contain concrete proposals to address the chronic underfunding of UN’s peacebuilding and sustaining peace. Lajcak added that, as women and youth are heavily involved in the work of sustaining peace, this should be reflected in the negotiating and signing of peace deals.

On SDG implementation, Lajcak described the three high-level events he will convene, including the launch of the International Decade for Action on ‘Water for Sustainable Development,’ which will take place on World Water Day, 22 March 2018. The second high-level event will take the form of a dialogue with young people on their experiences, challenges and ideas, on 30 May. Finally, in June a high-level meeting on financing the SDGs will aim to provide a “platform for stronger public-private partnerships” (PPPs). Lajcak warned that “if we don’t do something soon, we won’t have the resources to achieve the SDGs by 2030.” He said the three events will take place before the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in order to feed into the review of the selected Goals (6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17).

Apart from these plans and ambitions, Lajcak stressed the need to respect human rights “in everything we do” and to strengthen links among work taking place in Geneva, New York, and the field. He also highlighted ongoing efforts to help the UN evolve and reform. On the process to reposition the UN development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, he said the recently released concrete proposals from the Secretary-General will be considered at the UN Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) operational activities segment in February and March 2018, after which the UNGA will “have an important role to play.” He noted that the development system repositioning is linked to both “the alignment process and the ECOSOC review.” Further discussion will take place in the UNGA on two other strands of reform, in the areas of management and the peace and security pillar, once the Secretary-General issues his next reports on each matter.

We are stronger together than apart, all voices should be heard, and a compromise for all is better than a win for a few, said Lajcak.

The Assembly will also begin planning for a meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – the comprehensive review of the prevention and control of NCDs – and a diplomatic conference on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Lajcak also noted that he will convene dialogues with candidates for president of the 73rd UNGA session, which will be the first time such dialogues take place, and informal interactive hearings with indigenous peoples.

The UNGA presidential candidate dialogues are called for in UNGA resolution 71/323 of September 2017. By that text, the exchanges will be “informal interactive dialogues,” and the process will respect the principle of geographical rotation. The President of the 73rd UNGA will be elected from the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC). The resolution calls on candidates to present vision statements, and invites Member States to consider presenting women as candidates. In a letter to Member States on 12 January, Lajcak announced that he will convene the mandated dialogues in early May, and the election will take place in early June 2018.

Lajcak closed the briefing with a message about threats to the purpose of the UN, which he said is being questioned “not by one actor, but by many.” He urged Member States to push back against challenges to accepted truths, such as “that we are stronger together than apart, that all voices should be heard… and that a compromise or agreement for all is better than a win for one or a few.” [Briefing Transcript] [Briefing Webcast] [Letter to Member States on Candidate Dialogues]

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