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Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General

UNGA 78th session opens with call to put SDGs on track

By Cecilia Ologunagba

New York, Sept. 5, 2023

UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed has encouraged all delegates to the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to stay optimistic and work together to get the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) back on track.

Mohammed made the call at the opening of the 78th session of UNGA on Tuesday in New York.

“Let us forge the solutions that all people expect and make progress towards a better, more peaceful and prosperous future, and a healthier planet.”

The deputy secretary-general emphasised that the General Assembly represented “our common humanity” and “our shared commitment” to peace, sustainable development and human rights.

In his inaugural address as the President of the 78th session of the General Assembly, Dennis Francis, outlined his four key priorities or “watchwords” for the session: peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability.

He acknowledged the complex challenges facing the world, including climate change, conflict and poverty, which have made peace more elusive, while geopolitical divides have bred scepticism towards multilateral systems.

“As the UN’s chief policy making body, the General Assembly bears a special responsibility to ensure that our efforts must be anchored in a robust multilateral system, faithful to the cherished values and principles enshrined in UN Charter,” he said.

Against this background, he highlighted the Assembly’s Security Council veto initiative as a step towards transparency and accountability regarding the application of the veto.

Turning to the second watchword, the Assembly President underscored the need for tailored solutions in challenges of in-conflict and post-conflict countries, and urged Member States to follow through on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

“In doing so, we must also accelerate the transition to clean energy and boost support for adaptation by making climate finance more available, more accessible and more affordable,” he said.

Francis also highlighted the unique circumstances of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), urging renewed effort to follow through on their specific development agendas.

He also emphasised the importance of the SDGs and the upcoming SDG Summit as a critical opportunity to accelerate progress.

“How the Summit unfolds will set the tone for the rest of the General Assembly agenda this session; and for the 2030 over the next seven years,” he said.

He also highlighted the need for global solidarity and cooperation in building resilient health systems in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the need for financing to realise the ambitious development goals (SDGs).

Francis underlined the urgent need to address climate change and biodiversity loss, emphasising the need for transformative climate action, as well as the critical relationship with water – the common resource fundamental to all life, yet one that remains inadequately conserved and prioritised.

“We need a green ‘blue revolution’ that addresses and indeed brings together concerns around water, climate, biodiversity, and land and soil degradation and global food security.

“This is the only way to guarantee that the right to a clean and sustainable environment is upheld for all,” he said.

The 78th session of the UN General Assembly opened Tuesday with the inauguration of a new President, Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago, who will take on the mantle for the next 12 months.

High-level political forum on sustainable development also known as the SDG Summit will hold on Sept. 18, while the high level General Debate will hold from Sept. 19 to Sept. 29.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu will address the Assembly on Sept. 19.

The theme of the General Assembly, including the general debate, will be 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.

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