UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Trinidad and Tobago Ambassador Dennis Francis was elected next Thursday as president of the United Nations General Assembly, the 193-member global body that has been at the forefront of the United Nations’ condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and is a key venue for all countries to tackle pressing issues, from poverty and growing global inequality to climate change.
Francis, his Caribbean nation’s longest-serving ambassador, takes over the presidency at the start of the assembly’s 78th session in September and will chair the annual gathering of world leaders later that month.
François was elected by acclamation with a hammer blow and loud applause. He will succeed Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary, a diplomat for nearly 40 years who was highly regarded by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said: “I will miss his guidance and advice.”
The General Assembly, which is the most representative body of the United Nations, has drawn attention to the reaction to the war in Ukraine because of Russia’s right of veto in the Security Council, which is responsible for ensure international peace and security. It adopted six resolutions, demanding that Russia withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and condemning its “illegal annexation attempt” of four Ukrainian regions.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they are important as a reflection of world opinion.
Francis was asked how war would be factored into the upcoming session and he replied, “I believe the will exists, and the capacity exists, to think and act globally beyond the confines of war. , and it will be something that I will be seeking to encourage in various ways so that we can make common cause to find a consensus, or, if not a consensus, at least a compromise.
A career diplomat for nearly 40 years, Francis came out of retirement to become Trinidad and Tobago’s ambassador to the United Nations in September 2021. He previously represented the nation to United Nations agencies in Geneva, Vienna and Paris and held high-level positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also served as High Commissioner to Jamaica and was accredited to the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.
Francis chose “Peace, Prosperity, Progress and Sustainability” as his theme, saying they constitute “the four supreme goals before the international community” at this critical time. Kőrösi’s theme for this assembly session was “Solutions through Solidarity, Sustainability and Science”.
After his election, Francis told the assembly that “education is the great liberator, lifting people up the social ladder and strengthening society in the process.”
One of the main objectives, he said, at the meeting of world leaders in September will be to reinvigorate action to achieve the UN’s 2030 goals, which are seriously behind schedule. They range from ending extreme poverty and ensuring quality secondary education for all children, to achieving gender equality, reducing inequalities and taking urgent action to address climate change.
Guterres said Francis will take over the presidency “at a deeply difficult time for the human family,” pointing to “conflict and climate chaos, escalating poverty, hunger and inequality, mistrust and division.” And he said the 2030 goals are “in danger” and “out of reach”.