H.E. Ambassador Paul Beresford-Hill met with H.E. Ambassador Dennis Francis, the President of the United Nations General Assembly

H.E. Ambassador Paul Beresford-Hill met with H.E. Ambassador Dennis Francis, the President of the United Nations General Assembly

On April 23rd, 2024, Ambassador Paul Beresford-Hill, met with H.E. Ambassador Dennis Francis, the President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA).

Ambassador Francis has dedicated nearly 40 years to Trinidad and Tobago’s Diplomatic Service, serving as ambassador for 18 years until his retirement in 2016, making him the country’s longest-serving career diplomat. Throughout his career, he held various significant roles, including Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, as well as Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization and to the UN Human Rights Council. Ambassador Francis chaired critical committees such as the WTO’s Negotiating Group on Rules and led national delegations to important international forums. He also served as High Commissioner to Jamaica and played a crucial role in the International Seabed Authority, even chairing its assembly in 2003. Beyond his diplomatic roles, he has contributed to education and training in diplomacy, co-facilitating courses and co-authoring a book entitled “Heads of Mission-A Handbook,” which has received regional and international acclaim. In 2020, he returned to The University of the West Indies as a Visiting Scholar.

The meeting covered various topics concerning the Order’s activities and its engagement with the UN. Ambassador Beresford-Hill began by outlining the Order’s plans for celebrating its 30-year anniversary as a Permanent Observer at the UN. Ambassador Beresford-Hill also briefed the PGA on forthcoming conferences addressing critical issues, including the ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and climate change ahead of COP29. The PGA expressed enthusiasm for these initiatives, particularly emphasising the significance of discussing ethical concerns surrounding AI and the valuable contributions of faith-based organisations in climate action.

Ambassador Beresford-Hill provided an update on the Order of Malta’s humanitarian efforts, informing the PGA that the Order would address the Security Council on Thursday, April 25th, regarding its operations in Syria. He underscored the Order’s continued presence in Haiti amidst the escalating crisis, emphasising its commitment to delivering aid and support despite the challenging circumstances. Additionally, Ambassador Beresford-Hill highlighted the Order’s active engagement in refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria, collaborating closely with medical professionals to provide essential services to those in need. In response to the PGA’s inquiry about the Order’s involvement in Sudan and Somalia, Ambassador Beresford-Hill noted the presence of medical teams in South Sudan and operational programmes facilitating aid delivery, particularly in the form of food assistance. He also mentioned the Order’s significant contribution to combating HIV/AIDS in South Africa, operating one of the largest HIV/AIDS centers in the country and collaborating with various nations on related initiatives.

Ambassador Beresford-Hill provided insights into the Order’s extensive support for migrants, drawing from his recent trip to Panama where he observed firsthand the challenges faced by migrants in the region. Ambassador Francis expressed concern over the escalating numbers of migrants and attributed their desperation to the lack of opportunities and safety concerns in their home countries. Ambassador Beresford-Hill emphasised the blurred distinction between economic migrants and those fleeing for safety, stressing that traditional classifications no longer suffice in today’s context. He underscored the exacerbating impact of climate change on migration issues and stressed that host governments should adopt more compassionate approaches, recognising that border closures alone cannot address the underlying causes.

The PGA congratulated Ambassador Beresford-Hill for the Order’s commendable work. Reflecting on the significance of AI, Ambassador Francis remarked on its transformative potential akin to the early days of the internet, acknowledging the uncertainties surrounding its role within governance. He expressed curiosity about the evolving discourse on AI and ethics and eagerly anticipated reading about the Order’s conference on the subject.