United Nations General Assembly – A President of Hope

By Advocate Ajay Sooklal, Dr. Srimal Fernando and Mr. Kirtan Bhana

Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives

16 September 2021

Maldive’s Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid was elected as the 76th president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) currently in session in New York in the USA. It’s the first time a Maldivian has been elected to this position and is regarded as a boon for the South Asian Island state, especially as its neighbour, India, assumes its position of the presidency as a non permanent member of the all-powerful UNSC.

“We have seen humanity at its best,” said Shahid as he outlined key priorities as he assumed his position at the UNGA and termed it the “Presidency of Hope”. He was referring to the collective response of people of all nationalities and walks of life to the Covid-19 global pandemic. He had special praise for all frontline workers and their commitment inspired hope that humanity will rise to the occasion to face this challenge and overcome it.

Shahid also reiterated the Maldives' firm support for multilateralism and international cooperation and introduced the President of the General Assembly Youth Fellowship program which is an investment in the young and upcoming future generations to prepare them for the road ahead.

“I will not sit on a panel which is not gender balanced,” stated Shahid, bringing attention to gender inclusivity in decision making for comprehensive outcomes and implementation.

Climate and the vital maritime environment for these littoral South Asian nations, Maldives and India, will be a priority as they take the lead at the UN. India has over 7500km of coastline while the Maldivian archipelago is made up of 1900 islands. The Laws of Seas and Ocean, environment protection and management, maintaining peace and stability and ocean economics will become central.

Several reporting mechanisms and measurement indices have recorded and documented the immense strides the UN has made as a global governance and management organization. It has been pivotal in the development and direction of our planet Earth. The UN has been constant in its message of an interlinked, interrelated and interdependent environmental eco system comprised of diverse life forms of microorganisms, plants, mammals – which humans are classified as, fish and insects among others. As nations united, the body has on many occasions responded to crisis and conflict, and managed to broker a truce between warring parties which has led to peace and stability.

Some issues that resulted at the formation of the UN 76 years ago have still not been resolved and continue to plague this noble organization and weigh it down as it faces a new epoch. Member states are clamoring for reform for innovation that will transform the organization by re-aligning some of its mandates and re-organizing some of its bureaucratic processes that will be efficient and effective. This transformation has become necessary because of the United Nations’ own success and innovation in planetary development.

The UNGA 2021 which began on September 14th will continue until the 27th and will be a hybrid event as is the new normal. The discussions will revolve around the environment with a holistic perspective on all life on the planet and a hope for humanity.