"While the pandemic unleashed an unprecedented crisis, we have witnessed incredible acts of kindness and compassion... This is the narrative we must tell," said Abdulla Shahid.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday opened its 76th session, with the UNGA president imploring states to embrace hope and strengthen unity after a challenging year of climate disasters and COVID-19.
"It has been a tragic and challenging year... We can fall back on the comfort and predictability of systems and procedures, of the UN machinery that fills our days, or we can choose to push forward and turn the page. We can choose to write a new chapter. Let us choose the latter; let us dare to dream and let us dare to hope," said Abdulla Shahid, the president of the 76th UNGA session.
Highlighting the challenges ahead, he said that hundreds of millions have fallen ill, millions died, and billions suffered from the pandemic, with news arriving daily to ignite the world's collective anxiety about climate change, disasters, conflict and instability.
"The narrative must change, and we must be initiator for that change; the General Assembly must play a part of this," he said, emphasizing that the United Nations is as relevant today as it was 76 years ago.
"While the pandemic unleashed an unprecedented crisis, we have witnessed incredible acts of kindness and compassion, acts that reaffirmed our common humanity and collective strength as 'nations united.' This is the narrative we must tell."
“Now it's time for you to show us we can count on you, the leaders of the member states and the United Nations that you stand with Justice and Accountability. SHOW US WHO YOU ARE in the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).” — Democracy Movement Strike Committee DAWEI pic.twitter.com/ue2NKyu543— Ro Nay San Lwin (@nslwin) September 14, 2021
In his remarks delivered at the closing of the 75th UNGA, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that the last year was the most challenging period facing the world since the Second World War. The pandemic has deepened inequalities, decimated economies at the global, national and household levels, plunged millions into extreme poverty, shattered support systems and unraveled decades of hard-won development progress.
"This devastation has played out against the backdrop of ferocious conflicts and natural disasters that are putting millions of lives in jeopardy every day," said Guterres, adding that a climate emergency is literally setting our planet on fire.
"We need to speed up our response to COVID-19, with vaccines, treatment and equipment for all... We need countries to commit and live up to bold climate targets at COP26 in Glasgow. The war on our planet must end."