20 September 2021
Vaccinations, Climate Action Among 5 Sources of Hope for UNGA76
Photo Credit: Matthew TenBruggencate/IISD
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The UN General Assembly closed its 75th session (2020-2021) and opened the 76th (2021-2022) on 14 September 2021.

The outgoing UNGA President offered recommendations to strengthen the Assembly, such as restricting the number of UNGA-led high-level events.

Incoming President Abdulla Shahid said his Presidency will focus on embracing hope.

As the 76th session of the UN General Assembly opened, the incoming UNGA President called for a “new narrative” and identified sources of hope for the coming year.

The UN General Assembly closed its 75th session (2020-2021) and opened the 76th (2021-2022) on 14 September 2021. The President of UNGA 76, Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives, said his Presidency will focus on embracing hope and initiating a new narrative. In remarks to the first meeting of the 76th UNGA he said the Assembly can either “fall back on the … United Nations machinery that fills our days, or we can choose to push forward and turn the page.… Let us dare to dream and let us dare to hope.”

Citing “collective anxiety” around the world due to climate change, disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, and conflict and instability, Shahid said “the narrative must change.” He highlighted the acts of kindness and compassion that have marked the COVID-19 period as another narrative to be told.

Shahid highlighted five “rays of hope” for the coming UNGA session, and cited initiatives and events aiming to nurture each one. They are:

  • vaccinating the world, on which the President will convene a high-level thematic debate;
  • rebuilding sustainably from the COVID-19 pandemic, on which he will collaborate with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the UN system, and the international financial institutions to help ensure a forward-thinking recovery and targeted interventions for countries in special situations;
  • making the UN “once again” a forum for all, namely civil society and youth;
  • climate action, on which he will convene a high-level event in October, and said UNGA 76 will be a “super session for nature” and he will also convene a high-level thematic debate on interlocking environmental challenges towards the end of the session; and
  • gender equality, and Shahid announced that his Office is gender-balanced, including at the senior level, that gender equality and sexual harassment training is required for his staff, and that he will only participate in gender-balanced panels.

Prior to the opening of the 76th session, the UNGA held a meeting to close its 75th session. UNGA75 President Volkan Bozkir of Turkey offered recommendations to strengthen the Assembly, including to: make better use of its tools for preventive diplomacy; better support the UNGA President’s office with sufficient staff and resources; and restrict the number of UNGA-led high-level events, to focus more on substance and quality.

Bozkir observed that the UNGA is the world’s best platform to “mobilize political will and incubate collective solutions to a global crisis,” but its words “continue to outpace our actions.”

He emphasized that the tools exist for a multilateral approach, but by pursuing a “go-it-alone approach” instead, States have prolonged the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged countries to redouble SDG implementation efforts, indicating that this can address global inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

The 76th general debate begins on 21 September. An IISD policy brief provides a preview of leaders’ statements during the debate. [Summary of UNGA 75 closing meeting] [Summary of UNGA 76 opening meeting] [Abdulla Shahid biographical note]

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