The Maldives’ Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has elected as the next president of the United Nations General Assembly.
Shahid promised to fight for equal access to coronavirus vaccines, a stronger and more environmentally friendly economic recovery, and increased climate change measures.
In a 143-48 secret ballot vote on Monday, he defeated former Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, with two of the assembly’s 193 member nations abstaining.
Diplomats from member nations, all wearing masks because of the pandemic, were called to the front of the assembly chamber one by one to deposit their ballot in a large wooden box.
Turkey’s Volkan Bozkir, the current assembly president, said Shahid brings to the job “extensive experience in multilateral diplomacy,” serving his Indian Ocean island nation twice as foreign minister and for 10 years before that as chief of staff to the president.
Shahid has been “a strong voice in calling attention to the impact on small island developing states” by the pandemic and by climate change, which threatens people’s lives and livelihoods, Bozkir said.
‘Crucial time for UN’
Shahid, 59, said he was “deeply humbled” by the trust shown by the UN members and the honour given to his island nation of 26 atolls, with a population of about 550,000, which lies in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka and India.
Saying he has “an undying belief in multilateralism with an ardent desire to serve the international community,” Shahid said he aims to launch “a presidency of hope” and “to hit the ground running on day one in September as soon as I take my oath of office”.
“This is a crucial time for the United Nations and the world,” Shahid said. “There is very little time to spare.”
He pointed to the past year’s “disease, despair, and devastation” as a result of the pandemic, along with increasing “inequality, injustice, and instability” and the “suffering” of the planet from climate change.
Shahid said his priorities during his year-long presidency of the 76th session of the General Assembly are to recover from the pandemic, by making vaccines available to all people everywhere, and rebuilding economies stronger and greener, and “and ensuring no country is left behind”.
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