Maldives' Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid elected as President of the 76th session of UNGA

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United Nations, Jun 7 (PTI) Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid was on Monday overwhelmingly elected as President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, garnering 143 votes out of the 191 ballots cast.

India had already voiced its strong support for Shahid’s candidature as President of the 76th session of the UNGA, saying he is best equipped to preside over the General Assembly of 193 nations of the world.

The General Assembly voted on Monday to elect the President, who will preside over the upcoming session of the UN body that will commence in September.

In the fray for the election was Shahid as well as former foreign minister of Afghanistan Dr Zalmai Rassoul, who got 48 votes.

'Hearty congratulations to Maldives Foreign Minister @abdulla_shahid for the robust victory and for being elected as the 76th President of the UN General Assembly,' India’s Permanent Mission to the UN tweeted.

After his election, Shahid, 59, said his 'immediate priority' will be recovery from the COVID19 pandemic and working to ensure 'vaccine equity' to restore hope from a year characterised by 'disease, despair and devastation.' 'We approach the 76th session in challenging times. Disease, despair and devastation have characterised the past year. Inequality, injustice and instability have increased. The environment, the ocean, our planet is suffering. But we need to get moving again, rebuild communities, rescue the planet, recover economies and above all restore hope,' Shahid said in is remarks to the General Assembly after his election.

He underlined that 'we need to move to a different normal' and said that his 'five rays of hope, my five priorities” are geared towards that.

'My immediate priority will be recovering from COVID-19, building on existing initiatives and approaches. I will be looking to address the health of our people and our economies and work to ensure vaccine equity. We need to vaccinate the entire world. No one is safe until everyone is safe,” he said.

According to the established rules of regional rotation, the President of the 76th session of the General Assembly was to be elected from the Group of Asia-Pacific States.

Shahid will succeed Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir who was UNGA President for the 75th session that came amid the unprecedented COVID19 pandemic.

The President of the General Assembly is elected every year by a secret ballot and requires a simple majority vote of the General Assembly.

The Presidency of the General Assembly rotates among the five regional groups - the Group of Asian States, the Group of Eastern European States, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Group of African States, the Western European and other States Group.

Traditionally, a regional group agrees on one candidate and presents his or her candidature for election as President of the General Assembly, paving the way for election by acclamation. But this year the two candidates in fray were from the Maldives and Afghanistan, with both of whom India shares close ties. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, in his remarks at a joint press conference with his Maldivian counterpart in Male in February this year, had praised Shahid's vast diplomatic experience and leadership qualities.

'In this context, I reiterate today India's strong support to the candidature of Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid for President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly next year.

'Foreign Minister Shahid, with his vast diplomatic experience and his leadership qualities is, in our view, the best equipped to preside over the General Assembly of 193 nations of the world. We will work together to make this a reality. We would really like to work with you during our membership of the United Nations Security Council for 2021-22,” Jaishankar had said.

Shahid is the first President-elect of the General Assembly from the Maldives in the 75 year-old history of the UN and in the 55 years since the Maldives became a United Nations member. He is the sixth president from the small island developing states, 'a step that I believe brings us closer to true representation.' Shahid said that the international community needs to rebuild sustainably and the decade of action will now also have to be a decade of recovery, 'focusing on building back better, building back stronger and building back greener and bluer.' 'Targeted interventions will be needed to ensure that no one, no country is left behind,' he said, adding that the 76th session can be a super session for nature.

'There is momentum on responding to the needs of our planet. Addressing the needs of our people is equally important, ensuring that we respect the rights of all, mobilizing the collective will, and conscience of humanity is a process requiring constant work.' He added that he will ensure more voice and space for youth in the General Assembly and he will raise his voice against gender discrimination, advocate for gender equality. 'I reiterate my pledge…as President of the General Assembly, I will not participate in any panels that are not gender-balanced.' He further asserted that addressing the demands of the day will most definitely require a stronger United Nations, 'a transparent, efficient, effective and an accountable United Nations, coordination, coherence and cooperation within the United Nations system and between its organs.

'So we will need to continue working on revitalizing the United Nations, building on gains, exploring new avenues.' He expressed gratitude to Rassoul 'for your dignified conduct through this campaign.' India, currently serving the 2021-22 term as non-permanent member of the powerful UN Security Council, will assume the Presidency of the 15-nation UN organ in August.

In November last year, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, on a visit to Male, had said that the Maldives should play a more prominent role in the United Nations and had reiterated India’s support to Shahid's candidature for the presidency of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. PTI YAS ZH AKJ AKJ

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