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G20 Declaration testament to diplomatic skills, dexterity of PM Modi, his team: UNGA President Dennis Francis

The "solid" joint statement of "partnership" issued at the G20 Leaders' Summit in New Delhi under the Indian Presidency of the grouping is a testament to the diplomatic skill and dexterity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team, President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly Dennis Francis said.

"First of all, let me congratulate the government and people of India on the fantastic outcome of the G20 Summit," Francis told PTI in an exclusive interview here.

"I think it's a testament to the diplomatic skill and dexterity of Prime Minister Modi and his team that they were able to keep the G20 together in issuing a solid joint statement of partnership, which of course, is what we need," Francis, who assumed his role this month as President of the 193-member UN body for the 78th session, said.

"We need to build solidarity, we need cooperation, we need a conciliatory approach to our challenges all of the things that are spelt out in the declaration," he added.

India hosted leaders of the world's biggest economies, including US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov among others, for the G20 Leaders' Summit on September 9 and 10 in the Indian capital Delhi.

As G20 President, India pulled off a big diplomatic win with the adoption of the New Delhi Leaders' Declaration at the summit, overcoming major differences in the Russia-Ukraine war.

The announcement about the consensus on the 34-page declaration and its subsequent adoption came hours after India circulated a new text to the G20 countries to describe the Ukraine conflict.

"We have just received good news. Due to the hard work of our teams and the support of all of you, the New Delhi G20 Leaders' Summit Declaration has been agreed on," PM Modi said to a round of applause on the first day of the summit, ahead of his remarks in the ‘One Family' session.

On India's role in the UN, Francis stressed that the country is a key player in the system, one of the largest countries in the world with a dynamic growing market, increasingly a technological leader, a leader in the G77 and China group, which is the largest developing countries' group in the UN system.

He said India plays "an extraordinary role, often bringing countries together, particularly countries of the Global South. But not just the South, also cross-culturally, cross-regionally to make a difference on important issues".

He noted the significant contributions made by India to UN peacekeeping as well as to development issues, combating hunger and vaccine availability.

He particularly highlighted India's role in distributing vaccines across the world, describing it as "an extremely important contribution that India has made to humanity and to the international system.

"India, I would describe as a key partner of development, a very active, sober member of the international community, and one (that is) committed to international peace and security." Just days after the G20 Summit in Delhi, world leaders will gather at the United Nations headquarters for the annual high-level General Assembly session, with the General Debate starting on September 19, when Biden is scheduled to address heads of state and government from the UN podium.

A veteran diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, Francis was elected President of the General Assembly in June and in his address to the opening of the 78th UNGA session earlier this month, he underlined that his priorities for the year ahead are peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability.

As world leaders gather in New York next week amid the ongoing Ukraine war, impacts of the pandemic, global economic uncertainty and a climate emergency, Francis said his message to the visiting heads of state and government will be to be "bold and creative" in their approach that they take to the high-level week, particularly to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit, which will be convened on September 18-19.

With only seven years remaining for the implementation of the SDGs, only 15 per cent of SDG targets are on track to being achieved.

Against this backdrop, the SDG Summit will be an opportunity for all sectors of society to accelerate action on achieving global goals. With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the midpoint, at the SDG summit world leaders will carry out a comprehensive review of the state of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, respond to the impact of multiple and interlocking crises facing the world, and provide high-level political guidance on transformative and accelerated actions towards the target year of 2030, the UN said.

Francis noted that people across the world are "really depending" on the international system and on the UN to "take action in areas that can make a meaningful difference in their daily lives, such as in poverty alleviation and hunger".

Francis noted that there are approximately 860 million people living in hunger and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated their sufferings.

"We need to reach those people, those who are left furthest behind and help them to be their better selves... This is a critical time for us to demonstrate to the world that we have the capacity and the will to act in unison in order to protect people and to protect the planet," Francis said as he emphasised that "leaving no one behind must mean leaving no one behind on the ground".

He underscored that progress towards achieving the SDG targets by 2030 has not been achieved at the pace that the international community had hoped for.

When the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by UN Member States in 2015, no one had foreseen at the time that there was going to be a global pandemic, a major war in Europe and international peace and stability would be so disrupted, Francis said.

"But we made a commitment and the UN must act on its commitments. The SDG Summit really is the platform for laying the groundwork to return to the tracks for delivery by 2030," he said.

"It is an undertaking that the United Nations gave to the world in 2015 and it's a matter of honour that we should fulfil that," Francis said.


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