Turkish Ambassador Volkan Bozkir, president of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, hands the gavel over to Maldivian politician Abdulla Shahid, president of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Passing on the gavel to the new Assembly president, António Guterres saluted his predecessor: “Throughout this difficult and historic moment, we have all been fortunate to rely on the leadership of His Excellency, President Volkan Bozkir”.

The UN chief credited the outgoing Turkish diplomat and politician for prioritizing a sustainable recovery, rooted in the 2030 Agenda, and supporting countries and communities as they rebuild systems shattered by the pandemic.

Guterres said that under Bozkir’s leadership, the Assembly had sought to “strengthen health systems, deliver COVID-19 testing, treatment and equipment, and contribute to the most ambitious vaccination campaign in history”. 

Moreover, he drove the General Assembly’s vital work in the areas of peace and security, disarmament, human rights, gender equality and sustainable development while also overseeing the adoption of major resolutions on key issues - from peacebuilding to counterterrorism and preventing crimes against humanity - addressing climate change and ending human trafficking. 

“In short, under President Bozkir’s stewardship, this Assembly has proven, time and again, the value of multilateralism and a rules-based international system”, said the Secretary-General. 

“Unequal, challenging and ground-breaking”

In a heartfelt speech before closing the 75th Assembly’s final meeting, outgoing President Bozkir noted that his tenure took place amidst a “tumultuous, historic, transformative, unequal, challenging and ground-breaking year”.

“From the earliest moments of my Presidency, we knew that COVID-19 would dominate our agenda. However, I can now say that it has reinforced our belief in a more effective and more responsive UN”, he said.

Before stepping down, Bozkir made a series of recommendations that ranged from strengthening the Assembly to realigning “a serious mismatch in the way this Organization treats its employees and the world’s highest political office”.

He also suggested a shift from focusing on procedures “at the cost of substance” to a “more streamlined, priority-driven agenda” and to prioritize the UN as a single entity of respect, integrity, and progress. 

Before bringing down the gavel for the last time, he called for a moment of silent prayer or meditation.

On 17 June 2020, Volkan Bozkir was elected as the president of the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations, which is to take place September 2020 as the sole candidate with unanimous support from the 178 UN member states that were present in voting that was conducted by secret ballot.

Armenia, Greece and Cyprus, while initially supportive, decided later to oppose the candidacy, allegedly due to diplomatic conflicts. (ILKHA)

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