Remarks at a UN General Assembly Joint Debate on Revitalization

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 8, 2021


Let me start by thanking you, Mr. President, for your sustained leadership of the General Assembly. Your “Presidency of Hope” rightly sets the vision of the General Assembly on goals that are greater than we’ve achieved previously. This is critically important as we chart a future beyond COVID and do the hard work to harness the lessons that we have all learned from the pandemic. Foremost among those lessons, my delegation would argue, is that with collegiality and ingenuity, we can make the United Nations and this Assembly ever more relevant in the lives of people around the world.

The goal of our revitalization of the work of the General Assembly should be to increase the Assembly’s efficiency, effectiveness, accessibility, and transparency. Our joint commitment is needed to address the perennial challenge of how to make the work of the General Assembly relevant; this requires us to do the hard work, we believe, of streamlining the agenda so that we can focus our collective energy on the pressing issues that need our attention the most. It is our duty as part of this revitalization effort to appropriately biennialize, triennialize, cluster, and eliminate items and resolutions as we make room for the critical issues before us while ensuring the alignment of our efforts within their proper organs. We must focus our efforts on tangible, achievable improvements to our working methods.

To start, we must ensure that all stakeholders have a seat at the table. The time has come for the United Nations to be accessible to all. In 2021, far too many barriers remain to the equal and active participation of all members of our delegations, including those with physical disabilities, as well as the many stakeholders that join our meetings annually. While progress has been made – commendable progress – undue physical barriers continue to impede the participation of our delegates. We must prioritize the ability of persons with disabilities to enter and egress from UN Headquarters on an equal basis. So, too, must we make the reasonable accommodation process itself accessible and efficient.

The documents produced by the United Nations are intended to be universally accessible and it is time that that included universal design. Accessing a resolution, meeting record, or other basic documentation should not require delegations to convert or manipulate documents in order for their staffs to read them. Universal design would address these simple matters during the drafting and publication of documents, mitigating the need for extra effort.

We urge delegations to allocate resources to matters that strengthen the UN and address global crises, including ending fraught practices that, frankly, unduly tarnish the reputation of this body. To this end, the United States sustains its call for a code of ethics in UN elections and appointments.

Efforts are also needed to improve the efficiency of the accreditation and registration processes of the GA. We must build upon the e-registration advancements of recent years and harness common technology for improved productivity. The ability to bulk upload delegate registration information through comma-separated files alone could save thousands of delegate and staff hours and greatly improve our working methods. Reforms are also needed to align the honorifics used with the titles of our delegates so we may properly accredit and register them.

COVID-19 could not stop the critical work of this Assembly. We adopted and adapted practices to keep us safe during this public health emergency. As we’ve done in the past, we must reflect and make necessary changes to prepare now for future emergencies. As we are all doing at home, we must develop and strengthen our contingency plans at UN Headquarters to ensure continuity of operations. We must remain nimble and prepared to respond to the realities before us.

Let me end, Mr. President, by quoting President Biden at the start of this session: “As a global community, we’re challenged by urgent and looming crises wherein lie enormous opportunities if – if – we can summon the will and resolve to seize those opportunities.” As we seize these opportunities, we need the strongest possible foundation, grounded in effective working methods, multilateral engagement, and a resilient UN system. There are simply too many great challenges before all of us on matters of climate, pandemic response and preparedness, peace and security, human dignity, and human rights – challenges that require us to rise to the challenge of General Assembly Revitalization. The United States look forward to working with you, Mr. President, on this effort, as well as your appointed co-chairs.

Thank you very much.