UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa cited the recent devastating floods in Kerala, among other natural disasters wrecking havoc across the world, to make a call to the world leaders to achieve progress on agreements aimed at slowing climate change.
Ms Espinosa, who was elected this year as only the fourth woman to lead the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in over 70 years, also referred to heatwaves, forest fires and storms that are leaving behind a trail of death and destruction.
She formally inaugurated the 73rd General Debate of the UNGA yesterday.
In her address to the world leaders, she listed her priorities, saying she will work for gender equality and empowerment of women, implementation of the new global compacts on migration and refugees, creation of decent work opportunities for all as well as greater attention to environmental protection.
"We will work to give greater attention to environmental protection and to make progress on the agreements aimed at slowing climate change. Heatwaves, forest fires, storms and floods are leaving behind a trail of death and destruction," she said.
"In August, the state of Kerala in India suffered its worst monsoon flood in recent history, which killed 400 people and displaced a million more from their homes. Hurricanes killed thousands of people in 2017, making them one of the deadliest extreme climate disasters in history," she said.
Kerala was affected by the severe floods, the worst in nearly a century, due to unusually high rainfall during the monsoon season.
Around the world, millions of people are suffering from violence, war, want and the effects of climate change, she said, adding that "
We have a responsibility to slow the production and consumption policies and habits that are destroying our planet."
With a call to multilateralism and shared work towards sustainable development and equality for all, Espinosa affirmed that the contribution of the UN to humanity has been immense, citing the principles that govern the international coexistence emanated from the forum she leads.
"The reality is that the work of the UN remains as relevant as it was 73 years ago. Multilateralism is the only possible answer to the global problems we face. Weakening or putting it in question only generates instability and bewilderment, distrust and polarisation," she said.
Ms Espinosa said that as the world becomes more interconnected, global dialogue and multilateral responses can tackle many of those issues, proposing that UN Member States take up the multilateral agenda with a renewed commitment.
Turning to the assembly's other priorities for the coming years, she also noted strengthening the political commitment with people with disabilities, the revitalisation of the UN and the role of young people in conflict prevention.
Ms Espinosa called for more attention to be paid to the needs of the most vulnerable countries, so that they can reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensure respect of human rights. She urged leaders gathered in the Assembly to live up to the needs of the people and to build a more peaceful, secure and humane world order that guarantees the dignity of the people.
"Let us then build a United Nations that is more relevant to all people," the Assembly President said.
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