UNGA: Transformative solutions

Doaa El-Bey , Tuesday 20 Sep 2022

With the build-up to COP27, Egypt’s participation in the United Nations General Assembly acquires greater significance than usual, reports Doaa El-Bey

Shoukri and Blinken heading a meeting on the sidelines of UNGA
Shoukri and Blinken heading a meeting on the sidelines of UNGA

 

The 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened on 13 September, with the first day of the high-level general debate scheduled for Tuesday under the title “A Watershed Moment: Transformative Solutions to Interrelated Challenges”.

In a special message, Sameh Shoukri, minister of foreign affairs and president designate for COP27, highlighted the importance of not losing focus on climate action and urged all stakeholders to double their efforts to heed the call of millions around the globe for an urgent response to climate change.

On the sidelines of the UNGA, Shoukri took part in a number of bilateral meetings during which he reviewed ongoing preparations to host COP27 and Cairo’s position on regional and international issues.

With UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Shoukri hosted a closed Leaders’ Roundtable on Climate Action on Tuesday. The roundtable provided an opportunity for frank and informal exchanges between world leaders on climate impacts and rising carbon emissions that are hitting vulnerable communities the hardest.

The roundtable highlighted significant gaps on climate change mitigation, adaptation, resilience and climate finance, and addressed ways to strengthen international cooperation and re-energise the multilateral system to deliver demonstrable progress through a successful outcome at COP27.

On Monday Shoukri participated in a high-level side event held by the G77 on climate change chaired by the foreign minister of Pakistan, the current chair of G77. During the meeting Shoukri underlined the importance of addressing the issues of loss and damage caused by severe weather events and reviewed the Egyptian presidency’s vision of COP27, explaining that climate change loss and damage are fundamental to the international climate action agenda.

Egyptian efforts to build on the truce reached by Yemeni parties in April topped the agenda of Shoukri’s meeting with the US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking. Shoukri underlined Egypt’s continued support for a resolution to the Yemeni crisis and the alleviation of the humanitarian crisis facing the Yemeni people and stressed the importance of preserving the unity of the Yemeni people and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen.

Egyptian-US relations and cooperation and the war in Ukraine were discussed in Shoukri’s meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the UNGA. Regional issues were also raised, including the situation in Palestine, the importance of holding elections as soon as possible in Libya, and the truce in Yemen.

The two top diplomats also discussed US support for COP27 and Egypt’s water security.

In a meeting with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna, Shoukri pointed out that Egypt is relying on France — France chairs the Security Council throughout September — to spearhead constructive efforts to restore stability to the situations in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan and added that he was looking forward to France’s high-level participation in COP27.

Other bilateral meetings held by Shoukri included meetings with the Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt and the Maltese Minister of Foreign, European and Trade Affairs Ian Borg. The meeting with Huitfeldt focused on strengthening bilateral relations and encouraging Norwegian investment in Egypt, particularly in clean energy, green hydrogen production, and chemical industries, but also including food and agriculture, natural gas liquefaction and shipping. Shoukri and Borg both welcomed the progress made in strengthening political consultation between Egypt and Malta and economic and trade cooperation.

Meeting Dutch Foreign Minister Vopke Hoekstra, Shoukri reviewed the objectives of Egypt’s COP presidency, developments in the Ukrainian crisis and its economic impact on developing countries, and the international geostrategic situation.

All the members of the UN are represented in the General Assembly and its function, as outlined in the UN Charter, is to “promote international co-operation in the economic, social, cultural, educational and health fields, and assist in the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”.

Commenting on the urgent need for action to meet climate change goals in light of the latest floods in Pakistan, Gueterras warned during the UNGA opening session that “unless action is taken now, unless funds are disbursed now, these tragedies will simply multiply, with devastating consequences for years to come, including instability and mass migration around the world”.

“This year’s General Debate must be about providing hope,” he continued. “That hope can only come through the dialogue and debate that are the beating heart of the United Nations.”


   *A version of this article appears in print in the 22 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

Short link: