Multilateralism highlighted as 75th session of UNGA opens
Updated 14:39, 16-Sep-2020

The 75th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly opened on Tuesday amid unprecedented challenges when an increasingly fragmented world is facing off against the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing is keeping world leaders from traveling to New York to converge, as they have for decades.

In his opening remarks, new General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir asked UN member states to uphold multilateralism. 

"The context in which we are working serves to remind us of the necessity of the multilateral system and inspires us all to make use of the UN Charter to address our collective challenges," he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Bozkir said he intended to hold in-person meetings of the General Assembly as long as health conditions allow, with the necessary mitigation measures to protect the health and safety of delegates and UN staff. 

"In our business of diplomacy, there is no substitute to meeting counterparts face-to-face to build long-term understanding of each other's positions and forge compromise," he said. 

Bozkir was sworn in earlier on Tuesday at the closing of the 74th session of the General Assembly.

The newly minted Assembly president promised to do his "utmost to support and lead" the high-level meetings to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN; the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women; a high-level commemoration to promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons; and the Biodiversity Summit.  

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his opening remarks, warmly congratulated Bozkir on his new role and pledged his full support. 

This year will be a critical one in the life of the world organization. The UN must continue to respond to the immediate impact of COVID-19 by strengthening health systems and supporting the development and equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines. It must also prepare to build a strong recovery, based on the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, he said. 

Saying that the nature of multilateralism is changing, Guterres called for a more networked and inclusive multilateralism for the 21st century.

All the while, the General Assembly will continue with its work across the full range of global challenges: peace and security, disarmament, human rights, gender equality and sustainable development, said Guterres. 

"As we mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, it is clear that the world has high expectations of us, as the main platform for multilateralism and cooperation on a rules-based international system."

(With input from Xinhua)