6 September 2023
UNGA President Formulates Priorities for 78th Session
Photo by IISD/Mike Muzurakis
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The UNGA closed its 77th session (2022-2023) and opened its 78th session (2023-2024) on 5 September 2023.

The outgoing UNGA President called for integrated solutions that are “future-proof” and for urgent reform of the UN.

Incoming President Dennis Francis elaborated on the four priorities of his Presidency – peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability.

At the opening of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the incoming President Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago highlighted peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability as his four priorities to help address “cascading challenges.” He reiterated that tolerance, inclusion, cooperation, and respect for human dignity will be the guiding values of his Presidency.

The UNGA opened its 78th session (2023-2024) on 5 September 2023 under the theme, ‘Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.’

In remarks to the first meeting of UNGA 78, Francis underscored that as “climate, conflict, and poverty continue to make peace more elusive,” geopolitical divides “have forced many countries to navigate a narrow strategic space to drive change for their societies.” He welcomed the UNGA’s Security Council veto initiative as “an important step towards greater transparency and accountability … that must be interpreted within the ambit of system-wide UN reform.”

To ensure prosperity “where development is in deficit,” Francis called for enhanced financing, technology, debt sustainability, and capacity building. Among critical workstreams, he highlighted: efforts to implement the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) and the Doha Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries (LDCs); the 2024 Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4), which is expected to agree the successor to the Samoa Pathway; and the Third UN Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) in 2024 in Rwanda.

Let us accelerate progress by capitalizing on the enablers of youth, innovation, and technology.

— UNGA 78 President Dennis Francis

The UNGA 78 President emphasized the SDG Summit as a critical opportunity bolster massive progress on the SDGs. He said the Summit will “set the tone” for UNGA 78 and for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the next seven years. Francis called for “a quantum leap in our commitments” and “a radical transformation of our action,” to deliver on the promise of leaving no one behind, particularly groups that are already disadvantaged and marginalized. He said the UNGA must redouble its efforts to address human rights violations, confront violence against women, close gender gaps, and “lead the conversation on equality, equal rights, and non-discrimination” for strong, cohesive, and productive societies.

On sustainability, Francis emphasized that “the only way to ensure humanity and the planet’s survival” is by building sustainable societies “in harmony with each other and with nature.” He identified the Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement on climate change as a critical moment for the world to align behind “faster, more equitable and truly transformative climate action.” He urged for a “green ‘blue revolution’” that brings together concerns around water, climate, biodiversity, land, and global food security.

Prior to the opening of the 78th session, on 5 September, the UNGA held a meeting to close its 77th session (2022-2023). In his final speech as UNGA President, Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary said “despite geopolitical rivalries, our survival depends on … cooperation.” He warned that “we are all responsible for our actions and inactions” and that our chance to achieve the SDGs by 2030 “is slipping away.” Kőrösi called for integrated solutions that are “future-proof” and for urgent reform of the UN.

Addressing the last meeting of UNGA 77 on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed thanked the outgoing UNGA President for his “tireless work” leading up to the SDG Summit and support advancing Our Common Agenda. She urged Member States to use the UNGA as “a proving ground for multilateralism,” and to build trust, cohesion, and solidarity.

Welcoming the UNGA 78 incoming President, Mohammed said despite profound global challenges, “this is a moment for action,” not pessimism. She called for “progress towards a better and a more peaceful and prosperous future, and a healthier planet.” [UN News Story]

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