UN General Assembly 2023: The moment of decisive commitments for a better future
15 September 2023
Fiona McCluney - UN Resident Coordinator in Albania, interviewed by the Diplomatic Editor of Albanian Daily News, Mr. Genc Mlloja.
Albanian Daily News: Ms. McCluney, thank you for being available for this virtual interview. I think it is timely, as every September the eyes of the world are on New York where leaders convene at the UN General Assembly – the so-called UNGA –to address the formal Assembly and participate in side meetings on important issues for the world. Perhaps, you could tell readers what you understand will happen in New York these days?
UN Resident Coordinator in Albania Fiona McCluney: Mr. Mlloja, thank you so much for this opportunity to brief on the upcoming meetings in New York. Of course, much will happen on the sidelines and in informal tete a tetes, including a meeting between United Nations (UN) Secretary General Guterres and the Head of Albania’s Delegation to the UN, which I am not party too but, at the so called ‘High Level Week’, there are two headline messages from the Secretary General that he has shared in advance: The World needs Peace, and, as we are now at the half-way mark to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global assessments show that progress is worryingly off track by the 2030 deadline. The UN asks, how is your country doing and what more can we all do together to put the 17 SDGs back on track.
The opportunity to present positions on these issues, expand on plans and raise ambition especially in relation to Agenda 2030 will happen in the context of a number of important events.
On 18-19 September 2023 the SDG Summit will take place, Heads of State and Governments speaking from the podium of the General Assembly review progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 SDGs and make a high-level political statement on priorities and accelerated actions leading up to the target year of 2030 for achieving the Goals. I was pleased to meet the President in July to brief him on UN Secretariat guidance for the event. The negotiated political declaration from the SDG Summit has been under discussion between Member States over the last two months. Deputy UN SG Amina Mohammed leads this work and I know she hopes the final text will reflect a shared interest and ambition for renewed progress on SDGs towards 2030. On a more technical note, the SDG Summit is expected to identify the specific areas – High Impact Initiatives - with potential for accelerating the SDGs. On ending Violence against Women, and transformation of Food Systems and Education, as well on reducing Carbon Emissions, Albania has made commitments in other fora they can reconfirm. We hope Jobs and Social Protection will be another area to move forward.
- What other events will take place during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly regular session which opened on Tuesday, 5 September?
- On the 19 – 20 September the UN General Debate will take place, with important speeches by world leaders. This year’s debate focus tells us a lot about the state of affairs in the world. Leaders are asked to reflect on “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”. The General Assembly debate continues for several days in order for all 100 or so leaders present to get their moment at the podium.
In parallel, on 20 September there is a High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development. It will provide political leadership and guidance on the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – a UN framework for mobilizing resources to achieve the SDGs – as well as identify progress and emerging challenges and mobilize further action.
And convening around our biggest challenge for humanity, Climate Change, the Climate Ambition Summit will also take place on the 20 September. This key event will be convened by our SG Guterres who is expected to provide an updated status on the impact of climate change – no doubt drawing together trends familiar to us from the news every day. He will address leaders from Governments, business, cities and regions, civil society, and financial institutions. Expect an alarming narrative as this summer has been the hottest on record. He will call for credible, serious and new climate action and nature-friendly solutions that will move the needle forward in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the urgency of the climate crisis.
The Covid pandemic taught the world many lessons, and again on 20 September,the High-level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response will build on these. The President of the General Assembly, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, will convene Heads of State and Government for a one-day meeting to adopt a political declaration aimed at mobilizing political will at the national, regional and international levels for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
Two other important meetings related to public health will take place on 21 and 22 September, respectively: The High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage and the High-level Meeting on the Fight against Tuberculosis. UN Agencies with Headquarters in New York such as UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and UN-Women may also have bi-lateral meetings with members of the Albanian delegation. As you see there is a full agenda of important events happening in New York this time and yes, the eyes of the world will be on statements made there. Representatives of all global media will be present and reporting back to their countries.
- Really a lot going on in a short period, Ms. McCluney, I also understand Albania, as a member of the Security Council 2021 - 2023, has the Presidency of Security Council this September. What is your take on the role Albania has played during their mandate and what are the priorities this month at the helm of the Security Council?
- Albania has played a remarkable role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council during its mandate. The war in Ukraine placed the work of the Security Council on a critical footing with many difficult diplomatic and substantive issues to navigate. As chair it is an opportunity to focus debate on issues of interest. The two specific initiatives Albania has presented as key events during September are a high-level open debate on Ukraine to be chaired by PM Rama on “Upholding the purposes and principles of the UN Charter through effective multilateralism: Maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine", and the inclusion of the private sector in “Advancing Public-Private Humanitarian Partnership”.
Peace and Security are one aspect of the UN’s global work, but for the interest of your readers, might I mention the scope of agency representation here in Albania. 19 UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes - UN System in Albania – signed the agreement we have with the Government of Albania, the 2022-2026 Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework – UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNOPS, WHO, ILO, UNHCR, IOM, UN WOMEN, FAO, UNIDO and UNEP have staff in Albania, with many of us in the offices at the Rruga Skënderbej, Tirana, covered with banners representing each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Also, our website albania.un.org can be a useful resource to get all the latest news of our progress in Albania and we have currently updated all detailed achievements through the Progress Report 2022.
I hope to brief you again soon. There is much in the pipeline. October 24th is the UN Day, with many activities building up to events next year, in September 2024, where the theme of the UN General Assembly will be the Summit of the Future, looking more critically at global governance gaps, the SDGs and the United Nations Charter, and how to make a multilateral system better positioned to positively impact people’s lives.