So, what actually happened at the United Nations’ 74th Annual General Assembly (17-30 September 2019)?


Written by Beth Blissman

The week started with a special Climate Summit called by the Secretary General. He asked leaders to announce concrete plans of action that can boost global ambition and over 50 countries responded proactively. Secretary General Antonio Guterrez noted “If we want our planet to remain the same – healthy and able to support prosperity and opportunity for all – we will have to completely transform our world.”

Also on Monday, 23 September, there was a high-level meeting on universal health coverage, where world leaders adopted a United Nations Political Declaration on universal health coverage (UHC), the most comprehensive set of health commitments ever adopted at this level. The World Healh Organization (WHO) welcomed this landmark declaration
Read more about the declaration here!
On 24-25 September there was a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit, a critical opportunity to both evaluate and accelerate progress on the 17 Goals and their 169 targets. Amidst the strict security a special colorful outdoor tent with a SDG Media Zone was set up for meetings, lightning talks and youth events.  The 17 SDGs were depicted colorfully, vividly and widely all over the UN, and an urgent video message was created for the world leaders in attendance:   
Throughout the week various heads of state and government officials used their 15 minutes at the podium not only to underscore current challenges and suggest action to curb global ills, but also to accuse one another of inaction or wrongdoing, which has unfortunately become a trend recently. There were attacks on globalism and multilateralism, although I was unexpectedly impressed by a man named Donald…Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, addressed world leaders on behalf of the EU at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 26 September, noting that “…the history of our nations shows how easy it is to transform the love of one’s homeland into a hatred towards one’s neighbors. How easy it is to transform the pride for one’s own culture into a contempt for the culture of strangers. How easy it is to use the slogans of one’s own sovereignty against the sovereignty of others.”
Read more on Donald Tusk’s speech here!
A People’s Assembly ran parallel to the “official” SDG Summit on 24-25 September, where strong voices from grassroots communities spoke clearly of the need for political action and addressing the climate crisis. We heard about how the world’s most vulnerable people are bearing the brunt of conflict, inequality, injustice, environmental degradation and human right violations. There was also a powerful speech by Phillip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Poverty and Human Rights, about how the UN human rights community is only now waking up to connections between the climate crisis, gender and human rights violations.The UN General Assembly (see #UNGA74 on social media) wrapped up with a day focused on Financing for Development (26 September), which focused on how mobilizing enough financing remains a major challenge in realizing the 2030 Agenda, and investments that are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals remain underfunded. The Financing for Development High-Level Dialogue brought together leaders from government, business and the financial sector to help unlock the resources and partnerships needed and accelerate progress.  Also on 26 September, the United Nations hosted a high-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.Finally, on 27 September 2019, the General Assembly held a one-day high level review of the progress made in addressing the priorities of small island developing states (SIDS) through the implementation of the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway. Anyone interested in the urgent challenges facing the SIDS and the outcome of the review of the SAMOA Pathway should click the link below!
Read more about the SAMOA Pathway here