Senior United Nations officials and world leaders have called for an inclusive multilateralism drawing on all sectors of society as the world body marked its 75th anniversary during a hybrid commemorative event at UN Headquarters in New York.

The event, which included remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa, kicked off the High Level segment of the 75th session of the General Assembly under the theme “The future we want, the United Nations we need – Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism”.

Member states also adopted a political declaration vowing to strengthen international cooperation and to leave no-one behind.

A day to commemorate the UN’s successes in the more than 75 years since its birth in San Francisco in 1945. Established in the aftermath of two world wars, it has prevented a third world conflict but faces down a different set of challenges in the 21st Century.

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres says: “Twenty-five years since the Beijing Platform for Action, gender inequality remains the greatest single challenge to human rights around the world. Climate calamity looms. Biodiversity is collapsing. Poverty is again rising. Hatred is spreading.  Geopolitical tensions are escalating.  Nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert.  Transformative technologies have opened up new opportunities but also exposed new threats.  The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the world’s fragilities. We can only address them together.”

The political declaration agreed to through consensus talks about leaving no-one behind, protecting the planet, preventing conflicts and placing women and girls at the centre among others – but aspirational documents and implementation often provide two differing realities.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa says: “To realise a just and humane world, the UN must be fit for purpose, adequately funded and representative in its decision-making structures. We must ensure that the sovereign equality of nations is protected. Unilateral coercive measures and violations of international law must be dealt with firmly and consistently.  We must strengthen the UN’s coordination with regional bodies such as the African Union, to ensure our efforts are complimentary and mutually reinforcing.”

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa says international partnerships are key to building a unified UN:

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta says: “COVID-19 has exposed the global vulnerabilities of the UN and of our societies as well as our economies. In this regard now more than ever we are called on to reflect on the words of the UN Charter that urged us to employ international machinery for economic and social advance of all. It is indeed a call for meaningful international partnerships and multilateral cooperation to build back better together.”

US President Donald Trump was absent from the commemorative event where China’s leader Xi Jinping affirmed Beijing’s commitment to the UN system.

“The sudden attack of COVID-19 is a great test for the entire world. In the face of new realities and challenges we must do some serious thinking. What kind of UN is needed for the world, how should the organisation play its role in the post-COVID era. The UN must stand firm for justice, mutual respect and equality among countries, big or small, represent the progress of our times and it is the foremost principle of the UN Charter.

The annual UN General Debate begins on Tuesday.