Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Permanent Representative of Nigeria, was elected President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), taking place from September 2019 to September 2020. He will succeed Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces of Ecuador, current UNGA President, assuming the presidency on 17 September 2019.
Per the principle of geographical rotation, the president of UNGA 74 was to be elected from the African Group. Muhammad-Bande was the only official candidate for the presidency, and after an informal dialogue on his candidature in May 2019, he was elected by acclamation by the UNGA on 4 June 2019.
Among other positions, the President-elect has served as: Vice-Chancellor at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University of Nigeria; Director General of the African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development; and Director General of Nigeria’s National Institute for Policy and Strategic Study.
Addressing the Assembly after his election, Muhammad-Bande pledged to make the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other existing mandates a priority of his presidency, with a particular focus on peace and security, poverty eradication, zero hunger, quality education, climate action and inclusion. He called for investing in sustaining peace and conflict prevention, adding that the UN “has not met the expectations of its founding fathers,” in terms of preventing violent conflicts and mass atrocities. He also stressed the importance of human rights and the empowerment of women and youth, and announced that he will be devoted to the promotion of gender parity throughout the whole UN system, starting in the office of the UNGA presidency.
Muhammad-Bande noted that meetings to be convened during UNGA 74 provide “major opportunities” to promote the implementation of SDGs and their targets, including the SDG Summit, the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, the high-level events on Universal Health Coverage, Financing for Development and the review of the SAMOA Pathway, all of which will convene during the UNGA’s high-level week in September 2019. He also highlighted the upcoming second UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, and the commemoration of Beijing+25. He called for these meetings to galvanize political momentum and action at the highest level, and expressed his commitment to promote partnerships with all stakeholders.
On the commemoration of the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020, the President-elect remarked that the event presents a unique opportunity to reduce the trust deficit between nations, as “we all share the same aspirations” and “have no choice but to work together.” He also cautioned against “indifference and cynicism” in the UN, adding that the UNGA should bridge gaps and promote collective action to address international issues.
On efficiency, effectiveness and accountability, Muhammad-Bande noted the need to work in close coordination and collaboration with the UN Secretary-General, the UN Security Council and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). He said he will work with UN Member States to streamline the UNGA’s work and improve the way “we do business at the UN,” and expressed his willingness to address the growing number of events that might over-stretch delegations.
Congratulating Muhammad-Bande on his election, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted that the President will have a “full agenda,” referring to the series of high-level meetings in September 2019. He expressed hope that the commemoration of the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020 will serve as an opportunity to reaffirm the value of international cooperation and the vision of the UN Charter. Guterres commended President Espinosa Garces for her “outstanding work” leading the 73rd UNGA session, including for her support on UN reform.
Also extending her congratulations, Espinosa remarked that the UNGA 74 presidency comes at a “very critical moment” for the UN and multilateralism, and noted the need to advance implementation of the 2030 Agenda, work on sustaining peace and conflict prevention, and promote human rights and the empowerment of women and girls.
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