As historic virtual debate wraps, ‘our political leaders demonstrated their commitment to multilateralism,’ says UN Assembly President

UN Photo/Loey Felipe Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, delivers closing remarks to the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session.    

For the first time in the history of the United Nations, global leaders were not able to meet in person for the General Assembly’s annual debate, but the 193-Member body’s President said on Tuesday that the precautions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic “did not prevent multilateralism from operating at the highest levels.”

“This meeting has been substantive and exceptional,” said Volkan Bozkir, wrapping up the Assembly’s 75th anniversary high-level segment, held against the backdrop of the global pandemic.

The Assembly’s historic decision in July to allow world leaders to send in pre-recorded video messages, and to ensure physical distancing protocols for in-person interventions, meant fewer delegates crowding the historic halls of the UN’s New York Headquarters building, and far less traffic on Manhattan’s bustling East Side.

But more Member States that ever took part in the annual general debate pressing ahead with a with a full slate of issues, from cooperation on much-hoped for COVID-19 vaccines and reviving global multilateralism to promoting gender equality and climate action.

The Assembly President said Heads of State and Government, as well as Ministers, had over the past six days laid down a complete agenda, “which not only supports the priorities I laid down, but also provided enhanced guidance, on steps needed to overcome the challenges we face.”

Power and relevance of the UN

“The fact that so many world leaders chose to address this Assembly, is a testament to the power and relevance of the United Nations, stated Mr. Bozkir, adding: “No other platform in the international calendar, has this convening power. No other Organization can bring so many global leaders together. No other body has the potential to address global challenges, like this United Nations.”

Indeed, through their virtual presence, “our political leaders have demonstrated their commitment to multilateralism, and the United Nations.