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UN General Assembly 73 Opens

The 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened Monday, 24th September. The Assembly opened with the unveiling of a statue of Nelson Mandela, the human rights champion and former president of South Africa. Nelson Mandela was honoured as the Assembly pledged to build a just, peaceful and prosperous world and to revive the values for which the former legend stood for.

The statue, delivered by South Africa and President Cyril Ramaphosa, was meant to set a tone of cooperation and respect for the week, as much as it was about honoring a legend. The UN went a step further by adopting a resolution intended to enshrine the principles Mandela lived by at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.

“We resolve to move beyond words in the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non-discriminatory societies, stressing the importance of the equal participation and full involvement of women and the meaningful participation of youth in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security,” the resolution read.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa and Secretary-General António Guterres unveil the statue of Nelson Mandela at the UN Headquarters in New York (UN Photo/ Cia Pak).


Mandela Decade of Peace

At a UN summit to honour Nelson Mandela, heads of State and Government, ministers, and other country officials and representatives of civil society discussed efforts needed to pursue international peace and security. UN Members States adopoted a political declaration that recognises the period 2019 to 2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace and calls for redoubling of efforts to pursue international peace and security, development and human rights.

Topical Issues at UNGA 73

A number of issues will be highlighted at the UNGA 73.  In her opening statements to UNGA 73, UNGA 73 President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Gacrces outlined seven priority themes for the session, to: promote gender equality; promote and implement new global compacts on migration and refugees; highlight innovative thinking around the future of work; effort to protect the environment, particularly plastic pollution; raise awareness on persons with disabilities; implement reform of the UN system; and promote peace.

Migration and refugees is one of the key topics. Conflicts, persecution and natural disasters continue to be the main causes of unprecedented massive human displacement. Added is poverty forcing countless people to move from their home countries in search of better opportunities elsewhere.  However, and at the same time migration is causing countries throughout the world to close their borders and enact reactionary policies. One of the responses to the migration crisis is the Global Compact for Migration through which the UN is seeking to deal with the crises by promoting common principles for the humane treatment of migrants and refugees. At the UN Assembly this year there are a series of events that will be discussing and pushing for approaches to migration and break stereotypes surrounding the issue.

Italian navy rescues asylum seekers traveling by boat off the coast of Africa on the Mediterranean, June 7, 2014.

Photo credit: Massimo Sestini—Polaris

Humanitarian Disasters

Humanitarian crises facing the world will command serious attention during the general assembly this week. The civil war in Syria has showed no signs of abating and recently took a turn for the worse. There is a crisis unfolding in Yemen and that contuse to deteriorate. Reports reveal that in Bangladesh, more than 1 million Rohingya refugees remain in a state of limbo after facing genocide in Myanmar. Venezuela presents another humanitarian crisis in which a majority of the population is suffereing from manutrition as Nicaragua heads for an economic collapse.

Gender Equality

Gender equality is another topical issue at the assembly as efforts at improving gender equality in public and private spheres increase. UNGA 73 will host various events on sexual violence, female representation in business, and laws that discriminate against women. To coincide with UNGA. On Tuesday 25th September Global Citizen hosted the #SheIsEqual event, which, focused on leveling the legal terrain around the world in order to create equal opportunities for both women and men.

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