The University of the West Indies (The UWI) celebrates with great pride the appointment of one of its distinguished alumni to the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Announced on June 01 as the President of the 78th Session of the UNGA, His Excellency Ambassador Dennis Francis is the first native of Trinidad and Tobago and the second UWI alum to hold the position. He joins His Excellency Dr Samuel Rudolph Insanally of Guyana, who graduated from the University College of the West Indies (now The UWI) and served as the 48th UNGA President.
Extending congratulations, UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said “In this year, during which The UWI marks its 75th Diamond Jubilee anniversary, we have been very reflective on our contributions to the region and the world. We have also renewed our resolve, with all the resources at our disposal, to lead from the front as our region confronts present and future challenges. I can confidently say that our alumni are the most valuable resource and greatest value that The UWI continues to bring to the global stage. We expect only excellence of Ambassador Francis as he leads this General Assembly.”
Ambassador Francis’ qualifications from The UWI include a Bachelor of Arts in Geography (Mona) and a Post Graduate Diploma (Hons.) in International Relations from the Institute of International Relations (St. Augustine). In 2017, he returned to his alma mater as a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of International Relations, training diplomats and other professionals at the Diplomatic Academy of the Caribbean.
Interim Director of the Institute of International Relations (IIR), Dr Annita Montoute, offered congratulations on behalf of the IIR, noting that “His Excellency’s leadership coincides with very critical challenges facing the world at this moment, among them the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic challenges from the war in Ukraine, among many others. This development illustrates the confidence that the international community has in his ability and indeed, in Trinidad and Tobago to successfully lead in navigating such a fragile global landscape, which is arguably among the most difficult moments of our shared humanity, in contemporary times.” Dr Nand C. Bardouille, Manager of the Diplomatic Academy of the Caribbean added sentiments saying “This is a milestone in Caribbean small states’ contemporary diplomatic efforts to exercise a leadership role in agenda setting regarding processes of international cooperation and multilateralism, which are cornerstones of the praxis of their respective foreign policies.
In his response to the UNGA appointment His Excellency spoke about the significant role of education in his own life and defended the case for equal access for all. Lamenting any action within the context of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that would postpone or withhold support from those who lack access to quality education, he proposed instead that “The more pragmatic choice would be to do all that we can materially to save those children and young people from certain defeat of circumstance, by offering them, through education, the option of choice.”
His Excellency Ambassador Dennis Francis has had an outstanding forty-year career in the Diplomatic service of Trinidad and Tobago. He is Trinidad and Tobago’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and has served as Principal Representative in Jamaica and Geneva; Senior Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago on all multilateral matters including Climate Change and the 2023 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and subsequently Director of Multilateral Relations.
As President of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Francis will preside over forums for policy making and other significant multilateral deliberations among its 193 member states.