The general debate of the 74th session: multilateralism in action

Date: 
Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Thursday, 17 October 2019 | Worldwide | DGACM 

The general debate of the General Assembly constitutes the premier annual forum for world leaders to discuss the most pressing global issues at that present moment. In the words of one of this year’s speakers, it is a place where “the world meets, reflects, exchanges ideas and sets its goals for the future”, and as such “a forum unique in human history.”

And this they did. From 24 to 30 September 2019, a total of 193 Member States and three observers took the floor of the GA Hall for the general debate of the 74th session of the General Assembly. Speakers highlighted ongoing conflicts, persisting poverty and deprivation, the increasingly catastrophic effects of climate change, widespread violations of human rights, the continuing threat from nuclear weapons and their potential proliferation, as well as the risks inherent in the dissolution of existing disarmament agreements. They also shared their views as to the adequacy, or inadequacy, of international institutions to respond to these various tests to humanity. Unprecedented was the level of focus on the diverse effects of and myriad opportunities offered by the ongoing digital revolution. The important role of women in various contexts, including sustainable development, peacekeeping and leadership was highlighted, while the gap in achieving gender equality was recognized.

Under the overarching topic of “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion” proposed by the President of the General Assembly, climate action, which was cited by 176 speakers stood out as the debate’s dominant theme.

Following the debate, a synopsis [also available in pdf HERE] was compiled by the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management highlighting the most frequently mentioned topics and providing a tool to view them from a regional perspective. Comparing statistical data from previous sessions, it also strives to capture major trends over time of a selected number of topical issues: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; climate change; United Nations reform; terrorism; migration and refugee issues; and nuclear issues.

For a complete record of this year’s general debate, see gadebate.un.org and the PaperSmart portal, which respectively contain print and audio versions of the statements delivered, or the verbatim records, which will be issued in the official document series (A/74/PV.3 to 13).