Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement – United Nations General Assembly: Informal Plenary meeting on the Follow-up to the UN75 Declaration

New York, 15/12/2020 - 18:39, UNIQUE ID: 201217_20
Statements on behalf of the EU

15 December 2020, New York – European Union Statement by Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, at the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly: Informal Plenary meeting on the Follow-up to the Declaration for the Commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary


Mister President, Mister Secretary-General, Excellences,

I am delivering this statement on behalf of the EU and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement. 

Mister President, thank you very much for convening this meeting and for putting forward the five guiding questions to steer this exchange.

The Political declaration should be a centrepiece of our work going forward. We fully trust that you will use the GA agenda and convening power to hold us all accountable for implementing the commitments we signed up to in the political declaration, which was so skilfully co-facilitated by the PRs of Qatar and Sweden and adopted by our leaders on 21 September.  I can reassure you that the EU and its Member States will accompany and support this process as constructively as we have done throughout the negotiations of the Declaration.

Mister Secretary-General, thank you for sharing your initial thoughts on how you would like to use the ‘reflection period’. We look very much forward to your recommendations by the end of this session on how to advance our common agenda and respond to current and future challenges. We look forward to your reflections on how we collectively can re-energize, deepen and develop international cooperation – and thus strengthening the global framework and governance for implementing the ambitious actions we have agreed. Better ‘global governance for the global commons’!

We have full trust that you will make best use of your integrity, broad network and you power of persuasion to present to us in September strong recommendations on how to ensure that our multilateral system – with UN at its core - responds to the expectations of the “peoples”. We encourage you to engage with as many stakeholders as possible: civil society, youth, the private sector, thought leaders, NGOs, etc. And we encourage you to be bold and frank in your recommendations!  In the meantime, it is up to all of us to implement the 12 commitments we have collectively agreed to in the Declaration.

Excellences, friends, 75 years after the creation of this organisation, it is up to us to decide the ‘future we want” and determine “the UN we need”. Together with the Agenda 2030, the Paris agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Declaration should serve as our roadmap towards achieving the “future we want” – and it should also serve as a very concrete guidance steering and prioritizing our common work for this session.

2021 will have to be the year of delivery on our agreed commitments and priorities. Let me share some thoughts, which we believe could guide both our own strategies to implement the Declaration and to feed into the Secretary-General’s own independent broader reflection on how to move the multilateral agenda forward.

Firstly, we need to draw the right conclusions and deal with the consequences of the pandemic. The EU and its Member States have already mobilised – via the Team Europe approach – a global response package above 39 billion Euros to support partner countries’ efforts in fighting the pandemic – tackling both the immediate health crisis, while also addressing the strong socio-economic consequences. Financing for Development solutions are in place and should be further explored, including debt, strong conditionality on public financial management, anti-corruption frameworks and domestic resource mobilization. These elements are all part of the recovery.   

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only caught us off guard – it has laid bare the shortcomings of the global governance system. It must serve as a wake-up call that a serious reflection is needed on how the multilateral system can mend these shortcomings by improving our preparedness and response to global crises. Be it the next pandemic, climate-related risks, the broader peace and security threats, including weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian disasters or violations of human rights and international law and IHL. All those challenges are too big for any country alone to handle.

Rather than allowing Covid19 to derail our ambitious agenda and actions, we should consider the pandemic as a unique window of opportunity for decisive action towards preserving our ‘global common goods’ - the health of our planet and our citizens; peace and prosperity, respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide. As set out in the declaration, digital cooperation has the potential to help us achieve that goal.

The Covid19 Omnibus resolution – skilfully co-facilitated by the PRs of Afghanistan and Croatia, - sets out our clear commitment towards ensuring a coordinated and comprehensive response to the pandemic. Follow-up on this resolution will be one of the key deliverables in this body during the 75th session.

Most urgent now is to ensure universal, equitable and affordable global access to Covid vaccines. The COVAX facility, to which the EU heavily contributes, is therefore the best investment towards a sustainable recovery. With a view to better anticipating and managing potential future pandemics, the EU will promote ways to reinforce international health cooperation, including through a possible international treaty on pandemics within the framework of the WHO, which is at the centre of international cooperation on health matters. Looking ahead, we strongly believe that the multi-sectoral ‘One Health’ approach fostering close links between human, animal and environmental health is essential to preventing future pandemics!

Secondly, take the SDGs: five years have passed since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda! The pandemic has put us further behind. If we continue at the current speed, we will fail on many of the targets we have set ourselves. We need to step up if we want to ensure the agenda’s full implementation – and ensure that ‘no one is left behind’!

The EU is shouldering its burden. The EU’s Farm-to-Fork Strategy is an important component of our Green Deal and sets out a path towards sustainable, resilient and inclusive food systems. The UNSG’s 2021 Food Systems Summit will allow us to have important discussions on collective actions we can take to ensure this transformation and bring us closer to achieving the 2030 Agenda. Let us use this summit, but also the next HLPF, the FFD Forum, and other major events to advance towards this common goal with much more vigour.  

Take Climate Change and biodiversity loss. 2021 will be a decisive year with two big CoPs coming up in Glasgow and in Kunming. We must turn the tide on what the SG has called the ‘defining challenge of our time’: By taking the necessary decisions to implement the Paris Agreement, by agreeing an ambitious post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and by concluding the negotiations on BBNJ. As the Declaration states: “We have a historic opportunity to build back better and greener.” It depends on the kind of recovery strategies we adopt now whether we can achieve our goals as stated in the Paris Agreement – which for many small island states is a question of survival!

We are doing our share - EU leaders have just agreed new emission reduction targets under the European Green Deal of at least 55% by 2030 – setting us on a clear, credible path towards climate neutrality by 2050. We have adopted an ambitious Biodiversity Strategy. And as the world's leading donor, the EU and its Member States have steadily increased climate and biodiversity financing 

Take peace and security: The Declaration calls for further enhancing the Charter’s diplomatic toolbox, with a special focus on preventive diplomacy and mediation.  The EU has lent its full support to the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. What we need now, is much stronger political will to back up our efforts, not only linked to mediation and sustaining peace, but also to ensuring respect for international law, including accountability for atrocity crimes, and upholding the rules-based international order.  More than 100 UN Member States, including all 27 EUMS, have already signed up to the French-Mexican initiative aimed at securing voluntary restraint on the use of the veto in the Council related to mass atrocities. Moreover, a similarly high number of Member States support the ACT-proposed Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  

Take the rights of women and girls: We pledged to “place women and girls at the centre” of our policies! This means accelerating action to achieve gender equality, women’s participation and the empowerment of women and girls in all domains.  It is the right thing to do. Just look at the figures: The World Bank estimates the cost of gender inequality at $160 trillion globally. The next CSW session will be the occasion to start laying the foundations for an equal and more inclusive world. The EU stands ready to contribute to ambitious conclusions, including through the work of the new Group of Friends for the elimination of violence against women and girls, which I have the honour to chair. 

Take the broader civil society engagement and of youth in particular: This element is vital to ensure an “inclusive multilateralism” as envisioned by the SG. It is the only way to ensure that the policies we agree here serve the interests of our citizens. It is the young generation that will have to live with the consequences of our action or inaction.

There is certainly no shortage of good ideas and initiatives out there. Five weeks ago, the leaders of 10 countries, gathered in Madrid to launch an initiative initiated by Spain and Sweden in support of a strengthened multilateralism and the implementation of the 12 commitments agreed in the Declaration. There is also the ‘Alliance for Multilateralism’, launched by Germany and France two years ago, which is attracting a growing number of global partners, united in their determination to take actions to implement our common priorities.

All these initiatives put the UN at the core of our common global action. An upgraded, more agile, effective, democratic, and accountable UN that - in full respect of its core values - can deliver even better in response to global challenges and towards our agreed priorities. To help achieve this goal, we must collectively continue to support the full implementation of the SG’s reform efforts and ensure stable and sufficient funding for this organisation.

We look forward to further exchanges in this body under your capable leadership, Mr President, on how we can collectively deliver on the UN75 Declaration and achieve the ‘future we want”. You can count on the EU’s strong support both in implementing the Declaration and in ensuring that the UN75 Declaration is followed through. Our lives depend on it. Thank you.

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