Belgium at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York
The 76th session of the UN General Assembly will open in New York on 20 September, under the theme "Building Resilience through hope to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations."
Due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the High Level Week (20-27 September) will be held partly face-to-face and partly in virtual mode. Belgium will be represented in New York by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès. This is the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19 that international leaders have come to New York to express their vision of multilateralism in person.
Despite these special circumstances, Alexander de Croo and Sophie Wilmès will use this week to table Belgium's priorities and issues to the highest level at the UN.
Climate change, the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, the defence of human rights (in particular those of women, girls and LGBTIQ), the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, conflicts and humanitarian crises, respect for the Rule of Law and democratic principles, the fight against impunity and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals: in the face of the urgency of all these global challenges, Belgium remains more than ever convinced that dynamic, forward-looking multilateralism and international cooperation are the way to provide an effective response.
They will also have the opportunity to meet with many of their counterparts and key UN officials, bilaterally or in a multilateral format. Prime Minister De Croo will deliver Belgium's address at the General Assembly on Saturday 25 September.
Minister Wilmès will have about 20 bilateral meetings with some of her counterparts from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.
Because of their global nature, these challenges have a direct impact on the security and prosperity of our country. Providing concrete answers to these challenges is at the heart of Belgium's foreign policy priorities. This is why Belgium continues to play a very active role in the UN.
Alexander De Croo: "In a complex and ever-changing world, everything is about teamwork and partnerships. The management of the COVID-19 crisis and the rapid development of safe vaccines have shown this very well. It is precisely because cooperation is essential that Belgium is so committed to multilateralism. Not as a small country waiting for the benefits, but as a strong player always ready to move from words to deeds. Whether it is a question of defeating the coronavirus, tackling the climate crisis or protecting against international terrorism, no single country is capable of meeting these vast and complex challenges on their own. The rules-based international order must be at the heart of this mutual cooperation.
Sophie Wilmès: "Through its history, Belgium is a bridge builder, a pathfinder for dialogue and mutual understanding. It is an essential part of our diplomatic DNA and a constant in our international engagement, as shown during our mandate in the UN Security Council. Our country firmly believes that multilateralism remains a necessity in order to meet global challenges - the Covid pandemic has made that painfully clear. Today, the United Nations remains the place to discuss the big issues. The place where countries can talk and listen to each other and better understand each other. The forum 'par excellence' where they can negotiate on a global scale and work towards a consensus.”
Prime Minister De Croo and Deputy Prime Minister Wilmès will take part in various events and working meetings on these different themes.
Prime Minister De Croo will open the high-level event 'Transformative action for Nature and People', co-organised by Belgium on environmental protection, and will speak at a meeting on the decriminalisation of LGBTI relationships. The Prime Minister will also speak at the virtual “White House Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better”, hosted by President Biden. The programme also includes a series of bilateral meetings, including with President Tshisekedi (DRC), President Ndayishimiye (Burundi) and, with the attendance of vice-Prime Minister Wilmès, UN Secretary General Guterres.
The Prime Minister and vice-Prime Minister will put their presence in New York at use to have a series of economic contacts with important companies and investors in our country, such as AB InBev and Microsoft.
For the past four years, Belgium has hosted several side-events during the high level week in order to attract particular attention to the links between the political, security and humanitarian aspects of crises. This year, Minister Wilmès will chair an event with European Commissioner Lenarcic, Niger and the NGO Save The Children on the theme of "the protection of children, invisible victims of armed conflict and the COVID-19 crisis".
The Foreign Affairs Council in which Minister Wilmès will participate on Monday 20 September will focus on the situation in Afghanistan. In the margins of the General Assembly, Sophie Wilmès will participate in a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the attacks of 11 September. She will also take part in a meeting of foreign ministers supporting the ICC, as well as a ministerial meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism and a ministerial summit on information and democracy.