India's success in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can change the face of the world, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Maria Fernanda Espinosa said, describing the country as a "very important player" of the multilateral system.
Ms Espinosa said she is looking forward to engaging and working together with India under her presidency of the 193-member UNGA.
"India is indeed a very important player of the multilateral system. It is a friendly country to the United Nations. If India succeeds in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda - we are talking about 1.3 billion people - this really can change the face of the world," she told PTI.
Ms Espinosa, Ecuador's former minister of foreign affairs, was in June elected president of the 73rd session of the UNGA, becoming the fourth female president of the organisation in its 73-year history.
Before assuming office as UNGA president, Ms Espinosa had visited India and had held meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Recalling her visit to India, she said she was touched to see how the SDGs were being implemented on the ground in the country.
During the visit she had met NGOs and groups of young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and said it was heartening to see them organising their communities using the SDGs as a framework.
She said India is a very strong contributor of troops for UN peacekeeping operations. "It is very important also to set the standards on issues of involvement of women in peacekeeping, zero tolerance to any abuse or violence against women peacekeepers and against women and girls in general in conflict situations," she said.
Ms Espinosa also congratulated PM Modi for being conferred with the United Nations' highest environmental honour, the 'UNEP Champions of the Earth' award, recognising his leadership of the International Solar Alliance as well as his pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic in India by 2022.
She said despite these opportunities, India also faces several challenges in areas of sanitation and urbanisation.
Given that India is a highly populated country, the issue of balance between rural and urban areas and access to services are major challenges, she said. "If you have the political will, if you have the proper planning, you are committed then the challenge becomes an opportunity."
She said that historically India has had a vibrant civil society and strong democracy and "these are the contributions that India" can make to the multilateral system.
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