New General Assembly President brings ‘valuable insights’ into key UN challenges

UN Photo/Kim Haughton Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (on screens and centre at dais), President of the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly, opens the first plenary meeting of the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly. (17 September 2019)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The new President of the 74th session of the General Assembly brings to his role “years of United Nations experience”, the UN chief said on Tuesday, as Tijjani Muhammad-Bande banged the gavel to open his year in office.

“He also brings valuable insights into some of the pressing peace and security, human rights and sustainable development challenges facing this body, from the spread of violent extremism to the threat of the global climate crisis”, Secretary-General António Guterres said of Nigeria’s former UN Representative.

He commended President Muhammad-Bande on prioritizing peace and security, poverty eradication, zero hunger, quality education, climate action and inclusion, all of which the UN chief called “central to the sustainable development agenda”.

“I also applaud your emphasis on human rights and gender parity”, he spotlighted.

Pointing to the “five critical summits” next week on climate action, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), financing for development, universal health care and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the Mr. Guterres underscored that “multi-stakeholder engagement will be essential”.

Noting that in today’s rapidly changing word, “challenges are global and increasingly interlinked”, the Secretary-General noted that the Organization would be celebrating its 75th birthday. And because people have “profound” expectations of the UN, Mr. Guterres, expressed his concern over the “trust deficit between nations”, maintaining that there is a pressing need to convince people that it is “relevant to all and that multilateralism offers real solutions to global challenges”.

“Transparency, dialogue and greater understanding are essential to alleviating mistrust”, he spelled out, calling the Assembly “a unique and indispensable forum” for the world to come together and discuss “sensitive and important issues”.

He stressed the importance of “strong and effective multilateral institutions and architecture”, and international relations that are based on international law. In closing he wished the session success in its work towards achieving “our common goals of peace, prosperity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet.”

Collaboration and coordination

In his inaugural address as General Assembly President, or PGA, Mr. Muhammad-Bande said he would “collaborate and coordinate” with the Security Council, and the Secretariat “to ensure that greater attention is paid to prevention rather than reaction to full blown conflict.”

“I will also advocate for effective early detection and warning systems, as well as mediation, negotiation and peaceful settlement of ongoing conflicts”, he promised. “I will work to engender cooperation that will address drivers of conflicts such as poverty, exclusion and illiteracy”.

Segueing into the importance of quality education, the PGA said “the fact that no nation can develop past its educational capacity, particularly that of its teachers, means we must work to ensure that Member States can partner on teacher training, access to free and quality primary and secondary education” and highlighted the urgency in devising “means to attend to the educational needs of all”.

Turning to climate change, which Mr. Muhammad-Bande called “a key issue in development”, he said, “we must tackle its causes and repercussions: “The recent emergencies in the Bahamas, Mozambique, and the Sahel region, among others, reminds us of the urgency of strengthening global action to tackle climate change”, he argued.

Accentuating inclusion, the PGA flagged the importance of ensuring the rights and empowerment of youth, women and the disabled, as a continuing priority.

Redouble efforts to ‘bridge gaps’

“In line with the far-sighted vision of its founders”, he stated that “as the most representative deliberative body” of the UN, the Assembly needs to “redouble its efforts to bridge gaps and act for the common good of the people we serve, particularly as we prepare for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Organization”.

Mr. Muhammad-Bande said that we must “build trust with one another, deepen partnerships and show empathy” as “the only way to resolve the many challenges that confront us”.

“We will have to strive together, to deliver for all”, concluded the new General Assembly President.

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