UNGA's First Day: A Call for Peace, Gender Inclusivity, and the Primacy of Human Rights

UNGA's First Day: A Call for Peace, Gender Inclusivity, and the Primacy of Human Rights
Source: © United Nations


Emily Wolfe 

Human Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence

The United Nations General Assembly commenced its High-Level General debate today in New York with a fervent plea for peace, a demand for gender inclusivity, and a vital reminder that human rights must remain at the core of global conversations.

One of the most striking focal points of the first day's high-level debate was the unanimous call to end the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. World leaders took to the podium, and their speeches echoed a resounding commitment to resolving the Ukrainian crisis through peaceful means.

Notable among these speeches were those of President Joe Biden of the United States and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. President Biden, in a passionate address, emphasised the importance of diplomacy and collaboration, underscoring the dire need for an end to the violence that has plagued Ukraine for far too long. President Zelensky, on his part, articulated Ukraine's unwavering determination for peace while highlighting the immense human toll the conflict has exacted on his nation.

However, the UNGA's first day was not solely focused on geopolitical tensions. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa brought gender representation to the forefront when he posed a poignant question: "Where are the women?" His call for greater female representation in global leadership resonated as a reminder that inclusivity is key to addressing the world's multifaceted challenges effectively.

Amid these crucial discussions, it's imperative to acknowledge that the issues we face today – climate change, healthcare, education, and more – are intertwined with human rights. Human rights are the bedrock upon which the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  stand. Without securing human rights for all, achieving meaningful progress in any other area becomes an uphill battle. As we navigate through the complexities of a world in crisis, it is essential to heed the call for converging all SDGs. Climate action, health, education, and other global challenges are interconnected. A comprehensive approach is not just beneficial but essential.

Human rights are intertwined with all of the world’s crises. The link between climate change and human rights violations is undeniable, with vulnerable communities bearing the brunt of environmental disasters. The right to healthcare, education, and access to clean water is an intrinsic part of the larger human rights framework. These rights should not be viewed in isolation; they should be the driving force behind policy decisions. As the UNGA progresses, let us remember that while we may discuss multiple issues and challenges, human rights must be at the forefront. They are the thread that binds the global community's pursuit of a better world. By upholding and defending human rights, we lay the foundation for a more equitable, just, and sustainable future. It is a collective responsibility that transcends borders, and it's time for world leaders to act accordingly.

In the days to come, let us hope that the spirit of cooperation and commitment to human rights exhibited on the first day of UNGA 78 continues to guide our global leaders towards meaningful change.