Event Highlight

UNGA President Discusses “Rebuilding Trust and Reigniting Global Solidarity”

Posted Jan 16 2024
UNGA President Dennis Francis visits SIPA
photos: Victoire Mandonnaud MIA ’24


UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis visited SIPA on December 5 for a talk on “Rebuilding Trust and Reigniting Global Solidarity” in which he addressed the UN’s credibility with different audiences.

“It is true that there is a deficit of trust, particularly among the general public, in the United Nations,” Francis said in the fireside chat with Professor Daniel Naujoks, director of SIPA's International Organization and UN Studies specialization. “But it is not quite accurate to suggest that governments mistrust or lack trust in the UN. In fact, the evidence suggests quite the opposite.”

UNGA President Dennis Francis countered the critiques of those who criticize the UN as a mere talk shop: “While you are talking, you are not on the battlefield.”

At the same time, Francis described a state of mistrust between UN member states that has reshaped global geopolitics. Effective multilateral collaboration, Francis said, sometimes requires taking diplomats out of the formal negotiation formats at the UN and encouraging informal discussions between state representatives which can create trust and better relationships.

He said the current global environment is challenging but stressed the importance of compromise in negotiations, emphasizing the incentives to participate in and not abstain from international cooperation.

UNGA President Dennis Francis visited SIPA, speaking with Professor Daniel Naujoks.

With respect to the public’s feelings about the UN, Francis acknowledged the damage to the Security Council's reputation by conflicts such as Ukraine and Gaza. However, he said that the council and its perceived failings do not represent the whole of the UN. Indeed, he suggested, the General Assembly is a world parliament that focuses on development, human rights, addressing violence against women and girls, and climate change.

He also countered the critiques of those who criticize the UN as a mere talk shop: “While you are talking, you are not on the battlefield.”

Francis concluded by emphasizing the inseparability of peace and prosperity and highlighting the unsustainability of a world with a vast wealth gap. He called for collective efforts to work towards peace and justice, emphasizing that it is morally and ethically imperative to treat everyone as equal for a stable global society.

The conversation took place before an audience of about 150, with another 100 viewing online. Afterward Francis met with a group of 25 MIA and MPA students, speaking about the importance of education, threats of misinformation and social media, youth empowerment, violence against women, and his special interest (as a native of Trinidad and Tobago) in the role of the Caribbean on the international stage.

Watch the complete event: