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School of Diplomacy and International Relations

President of the UN General Assembly to Visit Seton Hall

Dennis Francis at a podium in the UN

The President of the UN General Assembly, His Excellency Dennis Francis, has been a strong advocate for gender equality and human rights.

On March 26, Seton Hall University welcomes His Excellency, Mr. Dennis Francis, President of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, as part of the World Leaders Forum speaker series. Hosted by the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Ambassador Francis will discuss the role of the UNGA in peacebuilding, progress, prosperity and sustainabilty.  The event takes place in the Chancellor’s Suite of the Bishop Dougherty University Center beginning at 4:30 p.m. All are welcome.  Registration is required.  

For those unable to attend the event in person, we invite you to the livestreamed event here.

A career diplomat,  Ambassador Francis served as Trinidad and Tobago's permanent representative to the UN.  He has been a strong advocate for human rights,  gender equality and advancing the  UN's Sustainable Development Goals. In his recent address to the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, he expressed deep concern about the impact that conflict and climate change are having around the world.  “Human rights,” he said during the Council’s 55th session, “are universal and must be enjoyed by all in equal measure without exception.” 

In June 2023, Ambassador Francis was elected president of the General Assembly for a one-year term.  As the UN’s primary policy-making body, the General Assembly aims to maintain peace and security among its member states.  In his role as president, Francis presides over high-level meetings, shapes the Assembly’s priorities and facilitates negotiations among UN member countries. 

“We are proud to continue the tradition of welcoming influential world leaders such as Dennis Francis to Seton Hall,” comments Courtney Smith, Ph.D., dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations. “The World Leaders Forum gives our students a first-hand opportunity to learn about and discuss the challenges we face in our global society, and to see how we as individuals have a role in addressing them.”  

From 2012 until his retirement in 2016, Francis acted as Trinidad and Tobago’s senior adviser to the minister for foreign affairs on all multilateral-level matters, including climate change and the negotiations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He also represented his home country at the World Trade Organization, the UN Human Rights Council, and UNESCO. 

Ambassador Francis is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He worked at the Trinidad and Tobago consulate in Toronto from 1988 to 1996, including as Deputy Consul General, before becoming deputy director of International Economic and Trade Relations at the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1996 and Director of the European Affairs Division of the Ministry in 1997.  

In 1999 he was appointed ambassador-designate to Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti as well as high commissioner to Jamaica. From 2004 to 2006 he served as ambassador to the Dominican Republic before being appointed as permanent representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations Office in Geneva. Between 2006 and 201l, he served as the non-resident ambassador to Austria and Italy.


The UNPGA's  address at Seton Hall marks the latest in a series of recent events featuring leading United Nations diplomats. In January 2023, Ambassador Csaba Kőrösi, the President of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly, was the featured speaker at the World Leaders Forum.  In May of 2022,  His Excellency António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General delivered the commencement address at the University’s 166th baccalaureate commencement ceremony. The month before, United States Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield took part in a fireside chat hosted by the School of Diplomacy, answering questions from students about the United States’ agenda at the UN, and diversity within diplomacy and international affairs careers and gender equity. 

In 2016, Samantha Power, then the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, addressed a rapt audience of students, faculty, staff and alumni the day after President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address. UN Secretaries-General Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan have also addressed the Seton Hall community.  

The World Leaders Forum provides an opportunity for speakers to encourage dialogue in search of new avenues for building peace. As part of this signature program, the School of Diplomacy has welcomed Nobel Peace Prize winners Leymah Gbowee and Nadia Murad, former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Tony Blair, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, and former President of Poland Lech Walesa, among other distinguished visitors. 

To learn more about the World Leaders Forum and register for the event, please visit here.  

Categories: Nation and World