– As delivered –

Remarks by H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly

7 May 2021

Mr. President, Minister Wang Yi Ministers,

Excellencies,

Thank you for convening this timely debate on an issue which is of great importance to the General Assembly. It is a privilege to brief the Security Council, on behalf of the 193 Member States of the United Nations. 

I also thank your delegation here in New York, and in particular, Ambassador Zhang, for his participation in the recent high-level interactive dialogue with the principals of the main organs of the United Nations, to commemorate the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace.

Under the Charter of the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council is entrusted with a special responsibility in relation to international peace and security. But the threats to international peace and security affect more than the 15 members of the UN Security Council. Right or wrong, for millions of people around the world, the Security Council is the face and embodiment of the United Nations. Its success or failure to achieve its mandate is seen as the success or failure of the UN.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

Mr. President, Excellencies,

Let me begin by stating unequivocally: strong and effective multilateralism, based on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law, and justice, are the foundations for security, stability, peace and prosperity. Importantly, the multilateral system benefits all of us from small states to the largest ones.  Multilateralism plays a crucial role in fostering dialogue and trust, managing security challenges, such as terrorism and weapons proliferation. And it provides a framework for states to resolve disputes peacefully and without coercion.

In September, world leaders affirmed in the declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations that multilateralism is not an option, but a necessity. Therefore, we must be clear during these discussions that there is no alternative to our current system.

As imperfect as the multilateral system may be we must acknowledge that we are at the helm. Member States are the United Nations, and the failures are our own.  Great enterprises are dynamic, and should evolve in sync, with the realities in which they operate. The multilateral system, centred around the United Nations, is no exception and it is incumbent on us to refine and update the system which is indispensable.

We have many examples of success.  From the UN Charter, and over the last 75 years, a web of treaties and norms have developed to promote cooperation in relation to global challenges in areas as diverse as civil aviation, hazardous waste, health security and human rights.

But unacceptable levels of human suffering remain.  Moreover, due to the multidimensional effects of the COVID-19 pandemic our world is currently facing the deepest global economic recession since the Great Depression, and the largest loss of incomes since 1870.

Foreign investment is gradually decreasing. The livelihoods of billions of people are under threat.

Global extreme poverty numbers are expected to rise for the first time in 20 years. Approximately 115 million people are on the verge of falling into extreme poverty.

It is calculated that 235 million people will need humanitarian aid this year. Meeting the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable 160 million people requires 35 billion dollars.

Approximately 690 million are at risk of malnutrition.

In 22 countries, violence and conflict are the root causes of the hunger, affecting 77 million.

Millions of people are on the move. Millions are displaced due to conflict, persecution, hunger or climate change.  Millions had to flee their homes countries ending up as refugees.

This scale of suffering is difficult to comprehend fully. But it is unimaginable to think of the extent of hardship and death that would unfold in a world without the United Nations. We can never afford to forget the impact our actions have on the people of the world.

Mr. President, Excellencies,

Under the Charter of the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council is entrusted with a special responsibility in relation to international peace and security. But the threats to international peace and security affect more than the 15 members of the UN Security Council.

Right or wrong, for millions of people around the world, the Security Council is the face and embodiment of the United Nations. Its success or failure to achieve its mandate is seen as the success or failure of the UN. On many occasions the Council has been divided and unable to rise to the challenge. For most of those cases the reason for failure is the differences between its members, in particular, its permanent members.

Reform of the Security Council is a core interest of UN Member States. It is a core interest of the UN itself, as well as it goes to the heart of its legitimacy. We need a more representative, accountable, transparent Council.

I am conveying this as the President of the most democratic organ of our system.

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

As Members of the General Assembly, you are of course, aware of a number of the issues before you, which are also on the agenda of the General Assembly.

A just and lasting settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict on the basis of the vision of two States, is still pending. The Palestinian people have been living under occupation for over 50 years. Essential needs of the Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory are met by UNRWA, the longest standing UN agency and a lifeline for more than 5 million Palestine refugees. Hence providing sufficient and sustainable financing to the Agency is essential.

The largest humanitarian crisis has unfolded in front of our eyes for a full decade now in Syria with hard to describe ordeals. Nearly 16.2 million are food insecure in Yemen, where famine remains a serious threat. Libyans have been suffering for almost a decade. The situation in Myanmar is a matter of deep concern. The military coup was a strike on the democratic processes in the country and the increasing loss of life since then is alarming.

In the same spirit of responsibility for the people we serve, I join the ASEAN leaders’ call for an immediate end to the violence in Myanmar.

I am deeply concerned about the humanitarian implications of the military’s actions in Myanmar. Particularly as they affect the most vulnerable communities, including the Rohingya Muslims, ethnic minorities, women, and youth. Later this month, I will travel to Cox’s Bazar, which hosts over 800,000 refugees who fled Myanmar in search of safety.

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

I firmly believe that we need to meet and speak with the people, for whom peace has thus far been elusive. Indeed, I recently visited the Hatay region on the Turkish-Syrian border where I met with Syrian refugees.  

At the UN’s trans-shipment hub in Reyhanli, OCHA representatives showed me the aid delivery process, and its monitoring mechanism. I have to tell you, standing on the truck, surrounded by the UN personnel who put their lives at risk to save the lives of others, and again as I looked out over Atme Tent City, I asked myself, ‘How long must the Syrian people endure such hardship?’

If the international community in this 75th year of the United Nations fails to step up to end this suffering – who will? There is no backstop. We are responsible for the fate of the most vulnerable.

To this end, I call on you to ensure that the vital cross-border assistance continues uninterrupted. It is my most fervent hope that this Council will renew this critical mandate in July, and work together to reinforce efforts to bring about peace in Syria.

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

I urge all Member States of the United Nations, – including the Members of this Council-, to strengthen implementation of the Charter, to formulate rules and processes that expedite justice when it comes to human rights abusers and those who violate international humanitarian law. These actions should be the baseline for the rules-based international order.

The lack of accountability for serious crimes signifies our collective failure to enable all mechanisms and tools of the multilateral system to prevent violations from occurring and re-occurring.

Furthermore, all COVID-19 recovery plans and humanitarian responses must be centred around human rights and the protection of civilians. For actions taken without accountability and full regard for human rights will never reach the most vulnerable in society. This includes the equal and fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines for all.

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Let me be clear, in this context protection of civilians equals Vaccine for All. Without vaccinating the people we serve, we are, in a literal sense, failing to protect civilians from the most widespread, deadly threat facing the world today. Many issues that cross our desks do not have easy solutions – or even plausible solutions. However, we can end COVID-19 if we work together.

I commend the recent steps taken to waive intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccinations. Once approved by the World Trade Organization, this much needed development will support increased vaccine production that will enable us to save lives.

The task ahead is clear: we have the ammunition to defeat this universal adversary. Yet at this moment, only 0.3% of all vaccines have been given to low income countries. I repeat: zero point three per cent.

We can do better. We must do better. The COVID-19 pandemic is not a zero-sum game.

Good intentions are no match for vaccines in arms.

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

It is clear that conventional approaches will not bring about peace, or shape an equal, resilient and sustainable world. Just as peace and development are mutually reinforcing, respect for human rights, is a foundation for peace and security as well. We need to reinforce UN reforms, which support an integrated approach to the challenges we face.  Sustaining peace requires us to address peace and security challenges, in all their dimensions.

This is the moment of reckoning to fulfil our commitments to our generation, future generations, and our planet.

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

I thank you and I look forward to our continued cooperation for the remainder of the 75th session, as we work to create a better world for all.