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  Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
 
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Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to welcome you, to the 31st United Nations General Assembly special session on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – the first-ever special session to address a pandemic.  

Today marks an overdue and much needed moment of reckoning. None of us could have imagined, this time last year, what was to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life for everyone around the world. It has challenged our world in ways unlike any other crisis in the 75- year history of the United Nations.  

COVID-19 is first and foremost a global health crisis. But it is at the same time an economic crisis, a development crisis, a humanitarian crisis, and a human rights crisis.  

We face the deepest global recession since the Great Depression and the broadest collapse in incomes since 1870. The world economy has shrunk by 4.4 %. Global extreme poverty is expected to rise for the first time in over 20 years. Up to 115 million people are at risk of being pushed into extreme poverty.  

Foreign investments have been evaporating. Trade and travel restrictions; steep declines in export earnings, tourism and remittances, all put at risk the livelihoods of billions all around the world.  

Our global development trajectory has been hijacked. Each country is feeling the pressure, yet, those that were already lagging behind, took the worst hit.  Ongoing humanitarian crises have worsened, as a famine of unprecedented proportion threatens the poorest people in the world.

We are faced with a grave risk where half of the Decade of Action to Implement the SDGs will have been spent simply getting back to where we were at the beginning of the year.   

Excellencies,  

This pandemic has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable members of our societies – women, children, the elderly, the disabled, refugees, migrants, those living in slums and the homeless. It revealed the structural inequalities and obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights.

Lockdown measures have led to increased gender-based violence and domestic abuse of women. Many women will not be returning to the workforce, as they disproportionately shoulder the burden of unpaid care and home schooling.

Young people feel frustrated, as their education, community engagement and employment opportunities are restrained.

Pandemic-related disruptions in health and nutrition services could result in increased rates of child deaths from preventable causes.  

Digital divide between developing and developed countries as well as between urban and rural settings is exacerbating exclusion and inequality. In communities around the world where internet connectivity is scarce, millions of children have no access to remote learning.  

Already far from their homes due to conflicts, disasters, and persecution, refugees and internally displaced persons are suffering further due to the pandemic. And increases in racist discourse, hatred, stigmatization, stereotyping and misinformation have been accompanying the pandemic.  

   Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
 

Excellencies,

This Hall is, where nations come together, where they unite. This august body, the General Assembly, is the voice, will, and conscience of humanity.  

The world is looking to the UN for leadership, to step up and take demonstrable action to address the greatest challenge our world is facing today.

This crisis compels us to shake up how things are done, to be bold, and to restore confidence and trust in the United Nations.

No other institution is as far-reaching, as mandated or as normatively better placed. The United Nations must lead on this.

This General Assembly special session, is a historic moment for Member States, the United Nations, the scientific community, and other stakeholders, including the civil society, to hear from each other, engage in dialogue on the multifaceted consequences of the pandemic as well as on the ways to recover better and stronger.

This is not a time to point fingers. We have convened here to forge a path forward and to end the suffering of the people we serve.

Since the beginning, I have been convinced that holding this special session was a test for multilateralism, defined by our collective action on the most critical issue of our time. And it is in no way the end of our joint response and recovery from the pandemic.

We were not prepared for COVID-19, but we have to be prepared for the next pandemic, climate catastrophe or global recession. Because a crisis of this magnitude will come, and we will have to meet it when it does.  

This is not a time to point fingers. We have convened here to forge a path forward and to end the suffering of the people we serve.

Since the beginning, I have been convinced that holding this special session was a test for multilateralism, defined by our collective action on the most critical issue of our time. And it is in no way the end of our joint response and recovery from the pandemic.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

 
 
  31st United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic