UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations General Assembly, in a rare contested election, elected Fiji’s U.N. Ambassador on June 13 as President of its 71th anniversary session beginning in September.
Ambassador Peter Thomson was one of two nominees for the post along with Cyprus‘ Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andreas Mavroyiannis. Thomson won in a close 94 to 90 vote. Seven ballots were invalid and there was one abstention.
Current assembly President Mogens Lykketoft announced the winner of the secret-ballot election as diplomats from the U.N.’s 193 member states burst into applause.
The largely ceremonial but prestigious UNGA presidency rotates annually between five geographic areas and this year it’s the turn for an Asian-Pacific representative to head Assembly meetings.
Thomson said this is the first time in history that one of the Pacific small island developing countries has put up a candidate that succeeded in being elected president of the 193-member world body. He said the Pacific islands bring special perspectives on climate change and on ocean issues.
“You can expect me to be vocal on those in the 71st session,” he said.
Thomson said all members are bound together by the 17 U.N. goals adopted last September by world leaders to end poverty, promote development and equality and preserve the environment. He said the main purpose of the session is to generate “momentum” to implement them. He said “we must have progress on all the 17” goals by the end of the next assembly session in September 2017.
Lykketoft, Denmark’s former parliament speaker, also served as Denmark’s foreign minister and finance minister.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed