November 25, 2020

Statement by Ms. Polly Ioannou, Revitalization of the work of the GA

polly-revitalization-ga General Debate of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly

United Nations Headquarters, 2 March 202

Thank you, co-Chairs, Mr. President of the General Assembly.

My statement complements that of the European Union.

Year after year, there is consensus amongst us that the General Assembly is a vital organ and that its fundamental character, as the UN organ that embodies and reflects the principle of sovereign equality, compels us to keep it relevant and effective.

The shortcomings of the GA are apparent when one compares its output today, with landmark documents that the GA has adopted historically, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples, the Uniting for Peace Resolution, the definition of aggression, the definition of self-determination, and the adoption or initiation of landmark instruments of international conventional law.

In our view, the primary objective of reforming the GA is to enable it to restore its capacity to promulgate authoritative documents on the most critical issues of our time. Successful GA reform should be measured by this, and by achieving the highest quality and standard for its work and its outcome documents.

Oftentimes we focus on elements that might be important for improving working methods, but might not bring us closer to this objective. One example is the agenda: while we should streamline the GA agenda to ensure that it corresponds to the challenges we face, it is not the volume of the agenda that hampers the ability of the Assembly to act on the issues that are on it.

The Ad Hoc WG has been a valuable vehicle for GA reform. We feel, however, that the high degree of detail it has immersed itself in has been at the expense of our primary objective. We would support refocusing its efforts on fewer, core pursuits. Perhaps the co-chairs could this year present a short draft resolution containing the most salient points, while reaffirming existing resolutions.

Some of the elements we would suggest focusing on in terms of revitalizing the GA, are:

  1. The need to set more ambitious goals for the GA, as Member States, in line with the challenges that require our imminent attention.
  2. The need to be more results-oriented in our discussions and in the products we put forward for adoption by the GA.
  3. The need to look for the added value of these products and whether they contribute to the GA tackling the issues that our constituents expect the UN to address.
  4. The need to examine whether the Office of the PGA actually has the capacity that corresponds to his/her responsibilities. We find it inappropriate that the PGA is dependent on funds from Member States for activities relating to his/her responsibilities while in Office. My delegation considers that the Office of the PGA should be funded sufficiently, predictably and transparently from the UN budget.
  5. The need to re-examine current practices that are detracting from the centrality of the GA as the sole forum where our heads of state and government engage in a single global conversation in the form of the general debate. While there is widespread frustration among Member States with the hundreds of side events during HLW – that divert attention from the general debate, effectively undermining the role of the GA – we find ourselves unable to introduce limitations to the number of these events. Such a decision would be a small and practical, yet significant contribution, of the AHWG.
  6. Last but not least, the GA determines the quality of the work of many bodies in the UN system by electing their members. We must all recommit to putting forward the best possible candidates and to casting our votes purely on the basis of merit. As regards the selection of the UNSG in particular, Cyprus fully subscribes to the position of the ACT group, as outlined here today by Switzerland.

Thank you.