- Check against delivery -
Distinguished Co-Chairs, Excellences,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, 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, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
Let me start by thanking the Secretary-General, the PGA, and the whole leadership and support team in the Secretariat for ensuring much-needed business continuity, while putting the health and security of all staff and delegates first throughout this past difficult year.
We also thank the Under-Secretary-General Abelian for providing this important briefing on the SGs analysis on the impact of Covid19 on the work of the GA as mandated in last year’s resolution. We will duly reflect upon it, also in view of resolution we will negotiate during this session.
The EU regrets though that this analysis - or at least main elements of it - have not been shared in advance of this session as to allow us to properly prepare and make best use of this unique opportunity to exchange on a topic of key importance to all of us. We would hope that the analysis could be made available to us following this meeting.
As regards our own assessment on the measures taken to mitigate the impact of Covid19 on our work: We commend the various positive innovations of recent months, including notably the introduction of E-voting as well as the ‘Interprefy’ platform, allowing at last for essential interpretation. The latter is indispensable to upholding multilingualism - a core value of this organisation.
Physical meetings and negotiations are always preferable to virtual deliberations and we are all looking forward to the day when again we can hold meetings without restrictions. But until then – and for similar exceptional crises in the future these innovations provide us with the possibility to conduct negotiations virtually if needed and allow us to advance our important agenda by taking decisive actions, while ensuring at the same time the health and safety of UN personnel and delegates.
There have also been positive steps as regards making more reports and data available online, from which in particularly our 5th Committee colleagues have largely benefitted.
We would strongly encourage for all lessons-learnt across the Secretariat to be fully reflected in moving forward and recommend making these positive improvements permanent rather than revert to "the old ways" of working once the pandemic is behind us.
Several points of concern remain though. We feel that multilingualism is still at risk of being hollowed out by the fact that translation services for key reports are severely delayed, putting in particular smaller delegations at a serious disadvantage when it comes to preparing and conducting negotiations. Both interpretation and translation - and I would add to this also communication, especially in times of crisis like now where scrutiny but also attention for our work is even higher - must be provided in a timely fashion in all 6 official languages.
We have also repeatedly expressed our concern as regards civil society engagement becoming the collateral damage of COVID-19, serving as a welcome excuse for those who continue to argue that the UN remains an intergovernmental body. We disagree and would argue that this UN@75 session is the perfect occasion to open the UN up further to the outside world in a true spirit of an inclusive and networked multilateralism.
Lastly, a key lesson-learnt from the pandemic should also be that we must focus our priorities even more, using the UN75 Declaration together with the Agenda 2030 as our roadmap
I thank you.