United Nations: India’s success in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals can change the face of the world, UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa has said, describing the country as a “very important player” of the multilateral system.

Espinosa said she is very much looking forward to engaging and working together with India under her presidency of the 193-member UN General Assembly.

“India is indeed a very important player in the multilateral system. It is a friendly country to the United Nations. If India succeeds in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda – we are talking about 1.3 billion people – this really can change the face of the world, she said.

Espinosa, Ecuador’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, was in June elected president of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, becoming only the fourth female president of the organisation in its 73-year history.

Before assuming office as UNGA president, Espinosa had visited India and had held meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Recalling her visit to India, she said she was touched to see how the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) were being implemented on the ground in the country.

Lauding India’s efforts in various aspects of the UN system, she said India is a very strong contributor of troops for UN peacekeeping operations.

“It is very important also to set the standards on issues of involvement of women in peacekeeping, zero tolerance to any abuse or violence against women peacekeepers and against women and girls in general in conflict situations, she said.

Espinosa also congratulated Prime Minister Modi for being conferred with the United Nations’ highest environmental honour, the ‘UNEP Champions of the Earth’ award, recognising his leadership of the International Solar Alliance as well as his pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic in India by 2022.

Despite these opportunities, India also faces several challenges in areas of sanitation and urbanisation, she said when asked about what challenges she sees for the country.

“I see that things are happening in a very positive way. The favourable conditions are a very dynamic and active civil society engagement, vibrant democracy, strong participation of people, engaged citizens are the conditions you need to make a difference and the conditions are there in India, she said.

On India’s role at the UN and expectations from the country going forward, she said the contributions that India can make are huge. “I am really very much looking forward to working on all my seven priorities with India. I see India as a country of hope and potential as well, she said.