74th session of UN General Assembly closes

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, president of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, declared the annual session closed on Tuesday.

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, president of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, declared the annual session closed on Tuesday, and passed the baton to the next president of the assembly, Volkan Bozkir.

"The emergence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has shown that we have to continue to deepen multilateral cooperation in the health sector, as in other areas, and implement the commitments of our heads of state and government to scale up national and global efforts to build a healthier world for all," Muhammad-Bande told the closing session.

"It is important that in achieving this, we must continue to deepen cooperation to ensure that, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, we will meet the goal and target we set for ourselves for (the) 2030 (Agenda)."

He emphasized the importance of the General Assembly, the most representative body of the United Nations. "We cannot underestimate the importance of this assembly, which is founded on the equality of voice and vote. Its resolutions reflect the aspirations of humanity, helping (with) the normative development of international law with far-reaching ramifications across a wide breadth of issues for individuals and for states."

"This is a moment of reckoning for our shared planet and future. This is a time for action, ambition, equality, inclusion and partnership," he said, stressing the importance of engaging and empowering the youth and underrepresented groups such as women and people with disabilities.

Seventy-five years ago, the founders of the United Nations did not allow cynicism to prevail. It shall not be allowed to prevail now, he said. "To ensure this, we must continue to thoughtfully define our actions and uphold our pledge to leave no one behind, even in the face of disagreement — indeed, in spite of disagreement. We must practice empathy and choose unity over discord."

In his remarks, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the 74th session of the General Assembly was like no other in the past 75 years as a result of COVID-19.

"The last seven months have been extremely difficult for the people we serve, and for many of us, personally and professionally. The COVID-19 pandemic has cut a swathe through our lives and our communities. We are all dealing with high levels of uncertainty. Right now, we are still in the middle of the fog. The extent of the pandemic, its social and economic impact, and its interaction with other global challenges and megatrends, is unknowable. Our only hope is to respond with unity and solidarity, while supporting the most vulnerable."

He said it had been a privilege to work with the General Assembly, a common platform for international consensus and action, during these difficult days under the leadership of Muhammad-Bande.

Muhammad-Bande's capable stewardship saw the General Assembly adopt new working methods to continue its work smoothly, he said. "On a personal note, I would like to thank Professor Muhammad-Bande for his wise, determined and serene approach to those unforeseen challenges, and his excellent judgment under pressure. I commend the patience and support he has demonstrated during these unprecedented times."

The introduction in March of new decision-making procedures made it possible for the General Assembly to adopt resolutions and decisions without in-person meetings. More than 70 resolutions and decisions were adopted in this way, he noted.

The 74th session of the General Assembly also oversaw elections to the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, and successful intergovernmental negotiations on the Declaration for the Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, and on an omnibus resolution on COVID-19 response, he said.

"The world looks to the United Nations as the indispensable forum for international cooperation on global challenges. Let us continue our work together to beat the pandemic and build a better future," said the UN chief.

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