Opening of the UN General Assembly 73rd Session September 19, 2018

Officially the United Nations General Assembly opened on September 18th but it was preceded on the evening of the 17th with an annual prayer service at the Church of the Holy Family.  Secretary General,  António Guterres noted that this moment is the bridge between one General Assembly and the next.   While remarking that we live in abysmal times he said that the presence of the Archbishop from Colombia demonstrated that peace is possible.  This instills hope.  We have a great opportunity to translate prayer into actions for peace.

Archbishop Luis Castro Quiroga of Colombia, the former President of the Colombian Bishops Conference and one of the leaders in the Colombian Peace Process, gave a reflection on some very practical way to bring about peace.  Peace comes through dialogue,  accepting difference, listening.  There is a dual aspect to peace – inner peace and exterior peace in all spheres including environmental.  Peace bring joy.  Peace is a reconciliatory process with God and others.  It engages both truth and reparation.  Truth cannot be hidden.  Peace to be a just peace is peace with mercy.  It engages with the full weight of the law and and full weight of mercy.  This is the meaning of transitional justice.  It is not impunity and neither is it penalty.  Peace has an ethical, spiritual and cultural foundation.  It engages a change of perception from seeing the other as different to seeing the other as my sister or brother.

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The President-elect of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, also participated ‘desiring to drink from the well of wisdom and good will.’  Too many people are living at the edge.  Her Excellency recalled the plight of people on the move and their great desire for peace.  Migrants she noted are not a threat.  People are moving because of hunger and conflict.  Her Excellency expressed a deep desire for multilateralism to work within the General Assembly and her wish to facilitate such a process.  She also looked to the faith communities for support.

Her Excellency María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés is Ecuadorean and only the 4th women to hold the position since the founding of the United Nations some 73 years ago.  Her Excellency dedicated her Presidency to “all the women of the world”, and paid tribute to the legacy of three who held the post before her, namely Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (India) in 1949, Angie Brooks (Liberia) in 1969, and Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa (Bahrain) in 2006.

PGA 73rd Session

Image – credit to the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM)

There are 7 focus areas – gender equality; migrants and refugees; decent work; people with disabilities; youth, peace and security; environment; and revitalization of the United Nations. Spanish  French  English


President-of-the-general-assembly address in Spanish

Citar:  QuoteText in English

Quote:  “The General Assembly is not just the most democratic and representative forum in the world. It is a space embracing the most diverse cultures of the world. You, dear colleagues, constitute an invaluable center of global thought and vision which has tremendous influence in the world and on our governments and our peoples. Your thinking, wisdom and vision set the standards for our cooperation and development, among our nations and for our people. Each day we must search for solutions to the most difficult problems that face humanity and our planet.”


Expressing dismay over the choice of keynote speaker representing CSO’s during 25 September opening plenary UN Sustainable Development Summit

My organization together with 28 others have expressed dismay over the choice of keynote speaker representing CSO’s during 25 September UN Sustainable Development Summit.  See full list of Speakers  We addressed a letter to the President of the General Assembly 69th Session, H.E. Mr. Sam Kutessa with copies to UN NGLS and UN DESA, civil society section.  Copy of signed letter


“It is with a sense of dismay that we read that Mr. Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International is selected as the keynote speaker during the 25th September opening plenary of the UN Sustainable Development Summit 2015 on behalf of CSOs. The dismay results from the recent controversy over the adoption on August 11, 2015 of a resolution recommending that Amnesty International develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of prostitution or what Amnesty International calls “sex work.”

While we welcome the decriminalization of all women engaged in prostitution and the protection of their human rights, we note that this resolution fosters the decriminalization of the ‘commercial sex industry’ that includes pimps, brothel owners and buyers of sex, who are the main perpetrators of violence and abuse against those in prostitution. Prostitution is not ‘decent work’ and is rather a denial of the dignity and worth of every woman and girl. Prostitution is a continuation of a patriarchal system, a form of slavery, and violence against women. The existence of the ‘sex industry’ is one of the root causes of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.   Amnesty International’s proposed framework to decriminalize pimps, brothel owners and buyers of sex is in direct violation of the 1949 Convention on the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, CEDAW, the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is regrettable that your selection of Mr. Salil Shetty as the keynote speaker was made at this time. During the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Abba (July 2015) CSOs were expressing concern about the strong tendency towards the instrumentalization and commodification of women in the economy and the market place. This Resolution proposed by Amnesty International is in direct opposition to the United Nations aspiration to leave no woman or girl behind in our collective quest to achieve gender equality. Amnesty International’s resolution in effect is endorsing male demand for ‘sex’ and ensuring the availability of a supply of women framing the argument within a distorted Human Rights Framework.”

After sending the letter to the President of the General Assembly there have been six more signatures: .

  1. The Women’s Front of Norway, ECOSOC Status
  2. Ruhama, Ireland  – Sarah Benson CEO
  3. Dr. Oranna Keller-Mannschreck,
  4. Anna Fisher
  5. RadFem Collective
  6. Davis Wendy,



New President Elect of the UN General Assembly

Sam K. Kutesa, Uganda’s minister for foreign affairs was unanimously elected by acclamation as President of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Sam Kutesa 1As president, he will preside over the General Assembly for a one-year period, starting 16th September, 2014 for which he has chosen the theme: “Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda”.

Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Election of Sam Kutesa made the following statement which echoes our priorities and the sort of transformative agenda we wish to see for girls and women.  I quote “The UN Charter places respect for human rights and dignity at its core, and it is the job of the General Assembly — and its President — to uphold these principles. At a time when girls are attacked by radical extremists for asserting their right to an education; representatives of civil society are harassed and even imprisoned for their work; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are endangered for who they are, including by discriminatory laws, the work of the United Nations to advance equality, justice, and dignity for all could not be more urgent. In the face of these challenges, all of us working in and at the United Nations should recommit to vigorously defending these core principles.”  Full statement available here