World leaders have demonstrated their commitment to multilateralism, the Turkish president of the 75th UN General Assembly said during closing remarks to the body.

“Many recognized that multilateralism presents the most effective system to address global challenges, such as the pandemic and climate change,” Volkan Bozkir said Tuesday.

Virtual meetings because of the coronavirus “did not prevent multilateralism from operating at the highest levels” and the call for solidarity is “impossible to ignore” amid the pandemic, he said. “Every member state referred to the catastrophic consequences of this disease in their remarks. There was a clear recognition that a disease that ignores global borders requires a solution that delivers for us all. And that we all experienced challenges arising from the pandemic.”

Bozkir stressed that unilateral actions “have failed” to halt the spread of the virus and “significant efforts” are needed to combat the current situation and prepare for future health crises.

The Turkish diplomat said he will address three issues as president of the General Assembly: “Early warning system, inclusivity in approaches to dealing with the crisis and equity in access to future vaccines.”

“At the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the pandemic later this year, I encourage you to present policy solutions on these three issues, to strengthen cooperation and put the world back on track towards achieving the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals),” he said. “I wholeheartedly endorse the call for vaccines to be distributed equitably, not just from a practical perspective, but also from a moral standpoint.”

The president described COVID-19 as “a practice test” that “revealed our weaknesses and the areas that we must strengthen together.”

Turning to climate change, Bozkir said the pandemic has diverted resources and attention from the issue and it is “still the greatest long-term threat to humanity.”

“As fires rage, sea-levels rise, and biodiversity is lost, there is even greater urgency in pursuing our climate goals and integrating them in our plans ‘to build back better from the pandemic,'” he said.

For international peace and security, he said the pandemic has only “aggravated” current conflicts.

He also welcomed steps by member states toward nuclear disarmament and said he would “endeavor to involve civil society in a meaningful way for a diverse range of voices to be heard” during his term.

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