UN General Assembly’s 73rd session kicks off

The United Nations on Wednesday opened the 73rd session of its General Assembly, with a charge by its fourth woman president, María Fernanda Espinosa Garces (Ecuador), saying she is assuming her role with a “profound sense of responsibility” and a sense of urgency to go beyond a political agenda.

“Making the United Nations relevant to all will be the focus of my Presidency,” Ms. Espinosa said, also stressing:  “People must feel like what is discussed in these halls will impact their daily lives.”

Ms. Espinosa dedicated her Presidency to “all the women of the world”, as she paid tribute to the legacy of three who held the post before her, namely Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (India) in 1949, Angie Brooks (Liberia) in 1969, and Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa (Bahrain) in 2006.

While recognising the many strides made in myriad facets of international affairs — from promoting decolonization and curbing climate change to protecting indigenous people and implementing the development agenda — she also recognized the weighty challenges ahead.

The United Nations must do more to heed the call of the millions of displaced migrants, “our brothers and sisters” in Palestine, and the scores of unemployed.  She called the General Assembly “the most diverse forum of knowledge, culture and faith”.

During the 73rd session, 193 Member States will debate 330 resolutions, hold 100 plenary meetings, take on 34 mandates, and commence 13 intergovernmental processes of extreme importance.  “It is in this house where all nations will equally have the same button to vote, be seen and be heard,” Ms. Espinosa said.

She outlined seven top priorities of her presidency, including promoting gender equality, implementing a new global compact on migration, providing opportunity for decent work for women, youth and persons with disabilities, promoting public awareness of pollution, strengthening political and social commitments to persons with disabilities, revitalizing the United Nations, and promoting peace and security.

Success of the United Nations depends greatly upon how well the Sustainable Development Goals are implemented, Ms. Espinosa emphasised.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said Ms. Espinosa’s perspective will enrich and advance the Organization’s work.  Stressing that the seventy-third session will be a busy one, he spotlighted critical work in areas including peacekeeping, ending poverty and empowering young people, among others.  In that regard, he urged delegates to arrive at next week’s high-level debate “ready to be bold, ready to cooperate and ready to forge solutions”.

Noting that the next months will also see a gathering of States Parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change and a summit in Morocco aimed at adopting the landmark Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, he expressed hope that those meetings will build on recent successes.  The Assembly also has a vital role to play, he said, declaring:  “At a time of fragmentation and polarization, the world needs this Assembly to show the value of international cooperation.”

In other business, the Assembly took note of a letter from the Secretary-General (document A/73/367/Rev.1) informing the Assembly President that four Member States are in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter.  Article 19 states that a Member State in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions will have no vote in the Assembly if the amount of those arrears exceeds the amount of the contributions due from the preceding two years.

The Assembly also decided that its Credentials Committee will consist of the following nine Member States: Antigua and Barbuda, Chile, China, Finland, Ghana, Palau, the Russian Federation, Sierra Leone and the United States.

Assembly members then authorized the following subsidiary organs of the General Assembly to meet at United Nations Headquarters in New York during the session:  Committee on Relations with the Host Country, Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Executive Board of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Executive Board of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Board of Auditors, Panel of External Auditors of the United Nations, the Specialized Agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Independent Audit Advisory Committee (document A/73/369).

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