Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for all on a Sustainable Planet

Jeanne Carroll
September 12-25, 2017 - UN HQ, New York  

Overview of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly

The 72nd Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly convened at the UN Headquarters in New York City from 12 to 25 September, 2017. This session's president, H. E. Mr. Miroslav Lajcák of the Republic of Slovakia set the theme: "Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for all on a Sustainable Planet." In his opening address to the assembled 193 member states, Lajcák highlighted six overarching priorities: making a difference in the lives of ordinary people; prevention and mediation for sustaining peace; migration; political momentum for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate; human rights and equality, including equal opportunities for genders; and working to ensure that the Paris Climate Agreement is integrated into national, regional and international frameworks.

In his opening session remarks, Secretary-General António Guterres said, "Our world faces serious threats-from the proliferation of nuclear weapons to global terrorism, from climate change to inequality. We also face major challenges, from migration to the unintended consequences of technological advances, such as cyber attacks." He stressed the necessity for change and declared, "One key change, within and beyond the United Nations, must be to empower the world's women and girls."

Member states made statements pertaining to issues concerning their country, progress made in the last 12 months, and hopes as to what the UNGA will do in the coming year. This is an opportunity for the member states to query the impact international decisions will have on their interests. Some of the statements focused on the recent conflict between North Korea and the United States, the current political and economic situation in Venezuela, climate change, forced migration and its economic effects on countries, conflict zones, as well as the ongoing wave of terrorism in the world.

According to the International Institute of Sustainable Development's (IISD) SDG Knowledge Hub, there were 196 statements delivered, 421 meetings and 1,528 bilateral meetings held at the event. One parallel event, Global Goals Week 2017, focused on driving progress toward the SDGs by gathering leaders from business and government, for seventeen events, to discuss how continued investment in innovation, technology, and clean energy can drive profitability and lead towards a net-zero emissions global economy. The 9th annual Climate Week NYC took place as well, with fifteen events focused on "Innovation. Jobs. Prosperity." It showcased the role non-state actors play in ensuring the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of the SDGs.

The main agenda items member states addressed were education, environmental conventions, social development, trade, gender, human development, globalization, 2030 Agenda, technology, innovation, water, and sanitation. While a number of SDGs were highlighted, four were most prevalent: #1 (no poverty); #4 (quality education); #5 (gender equality); and #16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions).

The dignified gathering of heads of state, diplomats and representatives from civil society spent two weeks working together, searching for solutions to many of the world's current dilemmas. In an effort to address diverse cultures, environments, and political climates, this 72nd UNGA established a vital foundation for resolutions to be formulated that will ensure future generations can live in a world with sustainable and lasting equality, prosperity, and peace.