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UN chief Antonio Guterres seeks 'renewed commitment' to global rules and values as world leaders head to New York for 73rd UNGA

United Nations: As leaders and foreign ministers from UN member states arrive at the UN next week for the high-level General Assembly session, the situation in global hotspots such as Syria and Yemen as well as pressing issues like climate change and peacekeeping will occupy the centre stage. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday emphasised he will make a call for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order.

File image of the UN General Assembly. Reuters

File image of the UN General Assembly. Reuters

The 73rd session of the UN General Assembly commenced on 18 September under the leadership of GA President María Fernanda Espinosa, the former minister of foreign affairs of Ecuador. The world body's annual high-level segment — formally known as the 'General Debate' — begins on 25 September, where every country's leader gets to address the world.

US president Donald Trump will deliver his second address to the world body on the morning of 25 September, after speeches by Guterres and Brazil. India's external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will address the global organisation on 29 September.

"The presence of 84 Heads of State and 44 Heads of Government is eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations," Guterres said on Friday in a press conference ahead of the commencement of the high-level week. He expressed concern that just at a time when the world needs multilateralism the most, it is under attack from many different directions, adding that he will use his meetings and other opportunities next week to "press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations".

Highlighting pressing peace and security challenges that will be the focus during the high-level week, Guterres said he had appealed to avert a full-scale military operation in Syria's Idlib province.

Welcoming the recent agreement between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Vladimir Putin of Russia to create a demilitarised buffer zone in Idlib region, he said if properly implemented, this could save three million civilians – including one million children – from catastrophe. "I call on all the parties to implement the agreement with a strong commitment to the protection of civilians, and to ensure humanitarian access, adhere to international humanitarian law and work urgently for greater progress in the Geneva process, in particular supporting my special envoy in the creation of a constitutional committee," he said.

On Yemen, Guterres said civilians continue to bear the brunt of the war in the country, including from air strikes by the coalition forces and ground fighting by all parties. In addition, missiles continued to be fired by Houthi forces into Saudi Arabia. "We are all aware of the difficulties being encountered by my Special Envoy in his tireless efforts to create conditions for dialogue and for a political process. I call on all sides to engage seriously — and I call on their supporters to avoid steps that fuel the fighting," he said.

The busy agenda of the UNGA high-level week will cover the full spectrum of international issues, including sustainable development, climate change, peace and security, human rights, public health concerns and gender equality.

The 73rd session will include a high-level meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on 24 September; an event to renew international commitment and Action for Peacekeeping a day later on the 25th; a high-level side event on Violence Against LGBTI Individuals, also on 24 September; a high-level event on Ending Tuberculosis on the 26th, a series of humanitarian-themed events, including the Yemen and South Sudan responses, and many more.

When asked about Myanmar, Guterres said it is "not acceptable" to have Reuters journalists in jail for doing their work. "It is my deep belief that that should not happen, and I hope that the government will be able to provide a pardon to release them as quickly as possible," he said.

Responding to a question on Afghanistan, he said while the way for peace is difficult, he strongly believes that dialogue is necessary between the Afghan government and the Taliban. "I hope that the circumstances will allow for that dialogue to take place and for that dialogue to be successful. I know it's complex. I know it's difficult, but it's also the only way possible to then be able to more effectively combat terrorist organisations that operate in the country."

Outlining the three key meetings he will convene in the days ahead, Guterres said he will launch a new strategy called "Youth 2030" on 24 September as well as an initiative named "Generation Unlimited".

The UN chief would also launch a strategy to mobilise financing for the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. "I often speak about a surge in diplomacy. Our world also needs a surge in investment in the sustainable development goals. It is important that all developed countries meet the commitments they made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda," he said.

Guterres said a key focus for him next week will also be gender parity at the United Nations and ensuring zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

On September 24, the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit will take place, and member states are expected to adopt a political declaration which was drafted throughout the year. The text declares 2019-2028 the "Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace".


Updated Date: Sep 21, 2018 09:15 AM

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