INTERVIEW: Amid disease and destruction, new UN Assembly president highlights hope 

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“The General Assembly is the lone assemblage which has the 193 countries represented and this body, erstwhile it speaks unanimously, erstwhile it decides on a matter, that is the planetary conscience,” Abulla Shahid said, ahead of the 76th General Assembly session, which starts on 14 September.  

He added that connected issues specified arsenic clime alteration and equitable entree to vaccines, helium would “never springiness up anticipation that humanity volition emergence to the occasion.”  

Mr. Shahid also spoke astir the importance of these issues and his wide presidency for his location state of the Maldives - which helium serves arsenic overseas curate - an land federation of 26 atolls southwest of India and Sri Lanka, with a colonisation of around 530,000 people. 

He volition present correspond a United Nations assemblage that speaks on behalf of astir 7.9 billion. 

His priorities for the coming twelvemonth see starring by example to help the UN reach the “gold standard” on issues specified arsenic gender equality. That means participating on panels with adjacent numbers of women and pushing for a much family-friendly UN, for mothers who are breast-feeding oregon taking attraction of tiny children.  

Throughout the interview, Mr. Shahid reiterated the value of multilateral cooperation and the thought that global challenges necessitate unified planetary action. 

This interrogation has been edited for clarity and length. 

Your candidacy for the presumption of President of General Assembly was built astir the taxable of hope. Given the continued waves of COVID, unequal entree to vaccines, and continued strife astir the satellite – however bash you program to bring anticipation to the General Assembly?  

I campaigned on a presidency of anticipation due to the fact that I genuinely believed that fixed the devastation, the despair, and the heartache that we person implicit the past 18 months it is clip that the United Nations arsenic the satellite assemblage that encompasses the full planetary community, the full 193 countries, it is clip that we basal up and we springiness anticipation to our constituents.  The Charter says “We the Peoples” truthful it is clip that we the people, unite successful giving the anticipation that radical truthful desperately need. 

In these terrible times of the pandemic, we person seen humanity astatine its best.  We person seen that successful the sedate sacrifices of the frontline workers, we person seen the doctors, the nurses, the many, galore mean individuals who person enactment their lives successful harm’s mode to assistance others.  That is hope. That gives anticipation to humanity. 

We person seen a vaccine developed successful grounds clip - that gives anticipation for the United Nations to travel together…and statesman the recovery which is what is required now.  It is unity that gives strength. 

In the Maldives wherever I travel from, we unrecorded time successful time out, with the menace of clime change, oversea level rise, but we volition ne'er springiness up anticipation that humanity volition emergence to the occasion.  That we volition survive.  It is successful the Maldivian ethos that we strive for the better, we effort to bash better…To effort for a amended tomorrow. 

From shifting upwind  patterns that endanger  nutrient  production, to rising oversea  levels that summation   the hazard  of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of clime  alteration  are planetary  successful  scope   and unprecedented successful  scale.

WMO/Shravan Regret Iyer

From shifting upwind patterns that endanger nutrient production, to rising oversea levels that summation the hazard of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of clime alteration are planetary successful scope and unprecedented successful scale.

You touched connected the contented of clime change. You’re from the Maldives, a tiny land processing state. What are your priorities successful this country for the presidency?  

I person been talking astir the 76th session being a ace league for quality and determination is simply a crushed - the 76th session coincides with respective large conferences connected clime alteration and environment.  COP26, the 3 large conferences from the treaties of Rio, the COP connected biodiversity, COP connected deforestation and COP connected the high-level vigor dialog and the Ocean conference. 

All these large conferences are going to physique a batch of momentum during this forthcoming session.  I mean to marque definite that I usage my convening powerfulness arsenic president to bring the planetary assemblage together.  

To give the last push.  For example, successful the run-up to COP26, I mean to convene a peculiar lawsuit present successful the General Assembly successful October to springiness countries the accidental to travel unneurotic and springiness that last governmental commitment.  Yes, we are committed to the 1.5 degrees [target to bounds c emissions]. Yes, a $100 billion target is achievable. Yes, the Paris Agreement [on clime change] is doable. Yes, we attraction astir humanity. That we volition perceive to the cries of satellite earth.   

We are seeing it each year.  We are seeing the symptom our satellite is going through. We are seeing extended floods, unbearable blistery weather, wood fires. You name it, we are seeing it. 

We are seeing it each year.  We are seeing the symptom our satellite is going through. We are seeing extended floods, unbearable blistery weather, wood fires. You name it, we are seeing it.  So, this is clip for the United Nations to travel unneurotic and springiness that connection of anticipation that yes, humanity volition survive. 

The different precise urgent precedence close present is COVID-19. What are your goals for this presidency?    

After I was selected, and I was speaking present astatine this General Assembly, I spoke astir vaccinating the satellite due to the fact that it is precise wide that nary 1 is harmless until everyone is safe.  It is casual to accidental but is also doable.  I judge it is doable due to the fact that the planetary assemblage has the capacity…Just by saying that no one is harmless until everyone is harmless is not enough. If we tin travel together, we volition beryllium capable to vaccinate the world…by the extremity of 2022 we volition beryllium capable to bash it.  

I mean to convene a vaccine event, aboriginal this twelvemonth oregon aboriginal adjacent year.  Once again to bring countries unneurotic to instrumentality banal and to illustration retired a mode forward. 

We discussed immoderate of the large issues facing the satellite close now. How tin the General Assembly marque a quality fixed that – dissimilar the Security Council – it lacks enforcement powers?  

The enforcement powerfulness of the General Assembly, I sincerely believe is more than that of the Security Council. The enforcement comes from the membership. The General Assembly is the lone assemblage which has the 193 member countries represented, and this assemblage erstwhile it speaks unanimously, erstwhile it decides connected matter, that is ‘the planetary conscience’. 

So, we person to marque definite that the General Assembly functions; functions much pro-actively; functions much effectively; so the connection to the remainder of the world, to us, is clear. The General Assembly sets standards, the General Assembly shows the mode guardant and the General Assembly draws the line, as to what is acceptable and what is not. 

Therefore, I judge that the astir important organ of the United Nations and the world, is the General Assembly of the United Nations.  It has the motivation authorization to acceptable standards. 

The President-elect of the UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid is interviewed successful  the General Assembly hall.

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The President-elect of the UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid is interviewed successful the General Assembly hall.

Can I inquire a follow-up, due to the fact that you talk astir efficiency, about unity. How bash you anticipation to usage your presumption arsenic the President of the General Assembly to bring astir that unity? 

I bash recognize that we volition person divisions, we volition person quality of opinions, we would person antithetic positions connected issues, but my clip arsenic Speaker of the Parliament and my parliamentary experience shows maine that it is imaginable to lick issues done dialogue. It’s important that we support talking, that we find accidental to beryllium down, put our views crossed to each different and past we volition beryllium capable to travel retired with solution of issues. 

If you look astatine satellite history, we person seen struggle erupt erstwhile opportunities for dialogue closed, erstwhile radical decided to fastener themselves up and region themselves.  This assembly brings radical together, it provides the accidental for radical to interact with each other, and we should usage it to the maximum. 

You brought up your Government backmost successful the Maldives. Within your Foreign Ministry, you were capable to bring sex equity crossed that Ministry. What are your goals present for your presidency?  

I decided to bring the acquisition of my ministry in the Maldives, to my cabinet, truthful my furniture is gender balanced.  Many of the elder positions are held by women and I besides person fixed the commitment, and erstwhile again I pledge that I volition not beryllium successful immoderate sheet that is not sex balanced. 

I besides mean to marque definite that I speech astir this much and more. I privation to marque the United Nations not lone the golden modular setter but besides the golden modular practitioner.  In that discourse I mean to talk to the Secretary-General and the Secretariat and marque the United Nations more family -friendly. That is simply a task that I mean to undertake. 

Investing in multilateralism is what we should bash now.  COVID-19 has erstwhile again shown america present that multilateralism is the lone mode forward. The champion concern successful multilateralism is investing successful young people. 

I americium besides going to proceed with the advisory radical connected women that erstwhile president [Volkan] Bozkir had constituted.  I besides mean to person regular sessions with the women PRs [Permanent Representatives] who are nonmigratory present truthful that I will payment from their viewpoints.  I mean to marque definite that the contented of sex continues to beryllium 1 of my apical priorities during my presidency. 

I’m precise curious, Sir, arsenic a parent myself. What are immoderate of your ideas for making the UN much household friendly?

During my run I met a pistillate ambassador, she shared with maine the horrific communicative that connected a time erstwhile her babysitter got cancelled astatine the past minute, she had nary prime but to bring her 2 small children but to permission them successful her car and permission them successful the UN store with a driver. There should beryllium a household country wherever children should beryllium capable to beryllium cared for these are issues that we should benignant out.

My past question is astir young people. Not rather arsenic young arsenic we’re talking astir close now. But youth, however bash you anticipation to bring younker into the General Assembly, into what is happening successful this hall?  

I was a young diplomat erstwhile I archetypal had the acquisition of attended the UN General Assembly successful 1988. It was my first General Assembly acquisition arsenic a young diplomat. 

It is my acquisition during those years that committed maine to multilateralism.  What I saw present successful this General Assembly successful the corridors and wrong the committees, that gave maine the assurance that multilateralism is the lone mode forward. I privation to springiness that accidental to young diplomats from under-represented countries and that is wherefore I person launched a President of the General assembly Youth Fellowship Programme.  I mean to bring a fig of young diplomats from under-represented countries springiness them the opportunity to work successful my office and with the countries they correspond astatine the missions truthful that they volition beryllium capable to acquisition what happens here. Their work will beryllium coordinated from my bureau and astatine the extremity of the twelvemonth they volition beryllium fixed a certificate to beryllium that they person performed their duties well.   

But who knows possibly 1 of these young diplomats who gets done the fellowship, whitethorn go the President of the GA astatine a future date.  Investing in multilateralism is what we should bash now.  COVID-19 has erstwhile again shown america present that multilateralism is the lone mode forward. The champion concern successful multilateralism is investing successful young people.  And that is what I americium going to do. 

What does your presidency mean for your state of Maldives? 

I americium taking bureau knowing precise good the challenges that I volition face.  I person been asked galore many times, wherefore did you propulsion your sanction into the hat at such a hectic time? I would accidental this is the champion determination that I person taken.  Because it is the 1 accidental wherever you tin marque a quality and 1 accidental wherever a tiny state similar the Maldives can make a difference. For the Maldivian radical it is simply a great honour. It is simply a privilege for a Maldivian to beryllium presiding implicit the General Assembly. 

This is the archetypal  clip  the President of the General Assembly comes from the Maldives

WMO/Ahmed Shuau

This is the archetypal clip the President of the General Assembly comes from the Maldives

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