|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
21st & 22nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Speaker in General Assembly Annual Debate Rejects ‘Pernicious Notion’
Human Dignity Can Be ‘Sliced Up, Compartmentalized, or Compromised’
Responsibility to Protect, Illicit Arms Flows, Political Transitions
Dominate Discussion; Syria, Other Speakers from Middle East Take Floor
As the General Assembly entered week two of its annual debate, Canada’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said he rejected the “pernicious notion” that human dignity could be “sliced up, compartmentalized or compromised”, since it was impossible, in a pluralistic society, to protect some human rights and freedoms while infringing others.
Canada’s aim, he said, was to secure tangible results for the human family. At the United Nations, the focus should be on achievement rather than on the arrangements of its affairs, he said, adding, “the billions who are hungry, or lack access to clean water, or are displaced or cannot read and write do not care how many members sit on the Security Council”.
To those who would ask “what business is it of ours” — whether about religion or freedom, sexual, political or otherwise, or “what interest do we have in events outside our borders”, the Minister said he would reply, “our business is a shared community; our interest is the dignity of humankind”.
Syria remained “the most urgent crisis” on the United Nations’ agenda, he said, expressing support for the Syrian people and condemning the “brutal and illegitimate regime that has unleashed weapons of mass destruction on its own people”. Calling for a political resolution resulting in a peaceful, democratic and pluralistic Syria, he warned, however, not to “confuse” a peaceful, negotiated outcome with equivocation or moral uncertainty. “There can be no moral ambiguity about the use of chemical weapons on civilians,” he added.
Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs offered a different perspective, saying instead that he believed “aggressive policies” and “political hypocrisy” were at play in the attitude of some countries towards his own. Foreign interference in internal affairs was based on a “pretext of humanitarian intervention or the responsibility to protect”. The same countries that were supporting intervention in Syria had also supported terrorism there.
He renewed his call on the international community to work on establishing a Middle East zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, which could not be achievable without the accession of Israel, the region’s only nuclear Power. At the same time, he underlined the right of all countries to acquire and develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Bahrain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs also stressed the right of all States to enjoy the fruits of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and related to that, support for reaching a swift solution to the issue of the Iranian nuclear programme, in line with the provisions of the NPT.
For the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, illicit small arms and light weapons were “the weapons of mass destruction”, and she hoped that implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty would lead to a reduction in the illicit flow. That would help to reduce armed conflict and violence, she said.
Echoing the call made throughout the debate of the importance of political and diplomatic means to resolve conflict was the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, who voiced support for a United Nations declaration that would strengthen the legal basis for the work of the General Assembly, Security Council and other United Nations entities dealing with peace and stability issues. Turkmenistan had launched a regional initiative aimed at establishing a standing mechanism of political dialogue in Central Asia, he noted.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Guineans Abroad of Guinea pointed to the importance of regional support in the resolution of the recent crisis in Mali, stressing that that country’s stability was vital to that of the Sahel as a whole. In his own country, he pointed to the vital contribution of the Mano River Union’s efforts to consolidate peace and to catalyse the dialogue that had been vital to the process. Describing the political transition in Myanmar, its Foreign Minister said expectations were high, and while the country was still in a critical period, it would march resolutely along its chosen path, as there was no turning back.
Several speakers also made references to the spate of recent terrorist attacks around the world, including in Nairobi, Kenya, where an attack at a shopping mall on 21 September killed scores of innocent civilians.
Also speaking were ministers from Oman, Iceland, Belize, Morocco, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Hungary, Philippines, Bhutan, Suriname and Grenada.
Speaking in exercise of the right to reply were representatives of Indonesia and Pakistan.
The General Assembly will meet again at 9 a.m. Tuesday, 1 October, to conclude its annual debate.
The General Assembly met this morning to continue its general debate.
JOHN BAIRD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, stressed the importance of considering what the United Nations was achieving than how it arranged its affairs. “The billions who are hungry, or lack access to clean water, or are displaced or cannot read and write do not care how many members sit on the Security Council,” he said. The global family would never achieve its potential “unless we address the peace and security concerns that shackle human opportunity”. Rejecting the “pernicious notion that human dignity can be sliced up, compartmentalized or compromised”, he said that in a pluralistic society, it was impossible to protect some human rights and freedoms while infringing upon others. Whatever the issue — religious, freedom, sexual freedom, political freedom or any other freedom — some people asked, “What business is it of ours? What interest do we have in events outside our borders?” He stressed: “Our business is a shared humanity. Our interest is the dignity of humankind.”
Syria remained among “the most urgent crises” on the agenda of the United Nations, he said, condemning the “brutal and illegitimate regime that has unleashed weapons of mass destruction on its own people”. He praised the work of the United Nations World Food Programme and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for providing assistance to refugees who had fled the conflict, and called for a political resolution resulting in a peaceful, democratic and pluralistic Syria. However, he warned, “let us not confuse a peaceful, negotiated outcome with equivocation or moral uncertainty,” adding, “There can be no moral ambiguity about the use of chemical weapons on civilians.”
He said prosperity could be achieved through free trade among open societies operating under transparent, consistent and fair rules. Canada had been working to deepen its economic relationships, both with Asia and Europe, but “the quest for prosperity must never come at the expenses of our commitment to freedom”, he stressed. Millions of people could not contemplate prosperity until a more basic need had been addressed — the need for security. It was in everyone’s interest to contribute to peaceful solutions to conflict, because peace and security ultimately ensured freedom of the individual, he said. Peace, prosperity and freedom were three universal priorities to remember as the new global agenda took shape.
KHALID BIN AHMED BIN MOHAMMED AL KHALIFA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, paid respect to the victims of the recent earthquake in Pakistan and the terrorist attack in Kenya, before pointing out the link between peace and development. He said that Bahrain was located in a region of vital strategic importance going through a prosperous epoch. Countries were striving to build societies based on progress and development in line with their unique political, economic, social and cultural dimensions. In that respect, he reaffirmed his country’s keen interest in following a pattern of orderly advancements through the use of information and communication technologies, on issues pertaining to security, social development, the environment and natural resources.
He supported reaching a swift solution to the Iranian nuclear programme issue in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of the Nuclear Weapons. At the same time, it was important to guarantee the right of all States to enjoy the fruits of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, he added. He rejected terrorism, extremism and violence in all its forms, emphasizing the need to inscribe organizations such as Hizbullah on the international list of terrorist organizations. International and regional cooperation was needed to ensure the freedom of maritime navigation in the Arabian Gulf and protect commercial vessels from piracy off the coast of Somalia, in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, he said. Further, he emphasized the need to put an end to Iranian intervention in the internal affairs of regional States and its occupation of the three Emirates’ islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa.
Turning to Palestine, he said “Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived for centuries side by side” and made their common history in a framework of coexistence and tolerance. He supported the creation, within the 1967 borders, of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. Oppression of Palestinians must end and the blockade must be lifted. He said that through a long history of open dialogue with its own people, Bahrain had immunized itself against sectarian tensions and conflicts, notwithstanding the acts of violence perpetrated on it by some extremist and terrorist groups targeting security officers, residents and expatriates. On Syria, he welcomed diplomatic efforts to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal and said that the international community must shoulder its responsibility to halt serious violations of human rights and put an end to the genocide.
WALID AL-MOUALEM, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, noted that many countries still faced political, financial and economic crises that exceeded their abilities to confront on their own. “Instead of settling regional and international conflicts by peaceful means, some known countries continue pursuing aggressive policies against certain nations,” he said. “Political hypocrisy increases to intervene in the domestic affairs of States under the pretext of humanitarian intervention or the responsibility to protect.” And when those aggressive policies did not prove beneficial for some countries, like Syria, those well-known States “reveal their true face and threaten with blatant military consensus”. Those same countries were supporting terrorism in Syria.
“There is no civil war in Syria,” he declared, reiterating that the war was being waged against terrorism. The international community should act in accordance with the relevant resolutions on counter-terrorism and take measures to compel the countries financing, arming, training and providing safe havens and passage for terrorists. “We were the ones targeted by poisonous gases in Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo,” he said. Syria had requested an investigation mission and demanded the inclusion in its mandate the ability to determine who had used chemical weapons, but the United States, France and the United Kingdom had limited the mission’s functions to deciding whether chemical weapons had been used. The mission had been awaited for more than five months and then withdrawn before completing its work.
He applauded the initiative by the President of the Russian Federation and called attention to the fact that Syria, by acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention, had proven its opposition to their use. “However, there remains the challenge that is facing all of us whether those who are supplying terrorists with these types of weapon will abide by their legal commitments, since terrorists who used poisonous gases have received chemical agents from regional and Western countries that are well known to us,” he said. Recalling that his country had repeatedly announced its willingness to seek a political solution to the crisis, he underlined the Syrian people’s right to choose their leadership and rejected all forms of foreign interference in its domestic affairs. On displaced persons, he said that, in some countries, they had been placed in military training camps or places resembling places of detention. He called on Syrian citizens to return home, where the State would guarantee their safe return and livelihoods.
Calling for a return to the 1967 line in the occupied Syrian Golan, he confirmed his country’s support for the right of the Palestinian people to an independent State. Syria also renewed its call on the international community to work on establishing a Middle East zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, which could not be achievable without the accession of Israel, the region’s only nuclear Power, underlining also the “right of all countries to acquire and develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”. The United States and the European Union should refrain from imposing immoral economic measures that contradicted the rules of international law and the principles of free trade, and accordingly lift the embargo on Cuba, as well as all unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria, Venezuela, Belarus, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Syria looked positively upon efforts by the United States and Iran to bridge the gap of mistrust and hoped it would reflect constructively on the stability of international relations, he said.
RASHID MEREDOV, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, stressed that solutions to international conflict based on the use of force were doomed to fail. Political and diplomatic means must be implemented in resolving international issues, he said, reiterating his support for the adoption of a United Nations declaration on the matter. Such a document would contribute to the expansion and strengthening of the legal basis for the work of the General Assembly, Security Council and other United Nations entities dealing with peace and stability. Disarmament was the most important problem facing the world today, he said, proposing a high-level meeting on the matter.
Taking into account the need to enhance effectiveness at the regional level, Turkmenistan launched a forum of peace and cooperation aimed at enhancing political dialogue in Central Asia. Achieving universal security to a large extent depended on ensuring security in the sphere of energy, he added. Needed was a universal international law “tool-kit”, which would include a multilateral document forming the legal basis for relations in the sphere of the international energy supply. In addition, an international database designed to collect and analyse methods used in the implementation of international obligations on energy would also be helpful.
Calling transport in the twenty-first century the architecture for an integration breakthrough, he said, “it is our firm conviction that [the] future belongs to this combined system” of communication involving major international and regional maritime, road, railroad and air hubs. On climate change, he emphasized the need to enhance implementation of the United Nations Convention on combating desertification. A subregional centre on technologies relating to climate change in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea basin would help countries strengthen their environmental security and coordinate regional efforts. Refugees and stateless persons remained a serious global problem, he said, adding that it was important to develop long-term solutions to that issue based on international norms and law.
YOUSEF BIN AL-ALAWI BIN ABDULLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Oman, said development should take place alongside the assurance of security and stability, through cooperation. Recent events witnessed by countries in the Middle East had been due to “true motives”, given people’s economic and social difficulties and the declining ability of institutions to fully respond to their needs. Relief efforts had been geared towards “rearranging” the economy of countries that deserved support. Welcoming Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), he urged convening the Geneva II conference for negotiations between the Syrian Government and opposition forces, and supporting those displaced.
Calling for the implementation of political and economic reforms in Somalia, he, more broadly, supported United States efforts vis-à-vis the Palestinian question, which was the cornerstone to any peace process in the Middle East. Those efforts offered an opportunity for the region to establish peace, which in turn, would lead to economic and social development. He supported initiatives to make the Middle East a zone free of nuclear weapons, emphasizing also States rights to benefit from nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Ending the dispute over that matter would not be achieved through sanctions, but rather creative diplomacy.
Expressing hope that the international community would persuade certain States in the Middle East to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), he regretted that the international conference on the Middle East had not yet been convened, as had been agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Oman recently had achieved Millennium Development Goals 4 on child mortality and 5 on maternal health. Oman planned to integrate environmental issues into its development goals. Finally, he said Oman was preparing an outline for a national strategy on research, development, science and knowledge, particularly focused on young people.
Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Iceland, said it was the primary responsibility of all Governments to protect their citizens, and it was, therefore, “hard to find words strong enough” to express his country’s condemnation of chemical weapons use in Syria. Those responsible must be held accountable and answer to the International Criminal Court, he said, adding that the devastation in the country must end. Iceland welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and called on the Council to ensure that Syria fully met its commitments. Some of the greatest achievements of the United Nations were in the field of international law, the Arms Trade Treaty being one of the latest, he noted. Iceland had been the first country to ratify the landmark instrument, and called on all States, particularly arms exporters, to do the same.
The Millennium Development Goals had served the international community well over the last 15 years, increasing awareness on poverty and inspiring new ways of making policy, he said. They had been central to Iceland’s development policy, but, as new goals were defined, the focus should remain on eliminating poverty, achieving gender equality, improving health and providing education for both boys and girls. Urgent actions were also needed to combat pollution and land degradation, and to ensure food security. “Safe, clean and renewable energy is the way of the future,” he said, noting that his country had undergone a true energy revolution. Today, most of its electricity and heating needs were met through renewable energy. Iceland’s greatest asset, however, was its people, in particular their knowledge and experiences as well as the constant journey of the human mind to explore new solutions.
The history of the world body’s successes “should not blind our vision or daze our judgement”, he continued, pointing out that the flaws of the Security Council had been sadly exposed in the case of Syria. Another urgent task that the international community must deal with was the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Iceland called on all States to renew efforts for the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action. In the last three years, women in the Arab world had shown how crucial their engagement was for democracy. He emphasized that developments in that region could not be separated from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinian people had a right to self-determination and Israel had a right to exist in peace with its neighbours. That was why all Israeli settlement activities, as well as indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, must end.
WILFRED P. ELRINGTON, Attorney General, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belize, referred to Guatemala’s territorial claim against his country, reminding the Assembly of his 2012 address in which he stated that the two countries had agreed to submit to their respective citizens the question whether the claim should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final resolution. However, Guatemala had decided in April 2013 not to proceed with the referendum and to postpone it sine die. Guatemala’s claim had been a constant source of anxiety to citizens and investors in Belize, whose maritime border regions had been suffering environmental degradation resulting from the illegal activities of Guatemalans engaged in drug and human trafficking, smuggling, illegal panning for gold and other illegal activities.
He went on to state that increasing trespassing had led to more frequent violent encounters between Guatemalans and members of the Belize Defence Force, resulting in fatalities that had put a heavy strain on relations between the two countries. Belize was committed to protecting its citizens and territorial integrity, he said, calling also for international input to help develop income-generating enterprises to alleviate the poverty which impelled Guatemalans to trespass on the territory of Belize. He thanked the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Group of Friends who had supported Belize and Guatemala in resolving the claim by peaceful means and, in the interim, ensuring that peace prevailed between the two neighbours.
Describing climate change as an existential threat, he called upon the international community to provide the necessary technical and financial assistance to help poor countries adapt to and mitigate its deleterious effects. Technical assistance for training to secure the citizenry and provide education would also be welcome. He also underlined the threat posed by non-communicable diseases and disabilities in the Caribbean, saying they were having a negative impact on countries in the region. The incidence of cancers, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, chronic lung diseases, hypertension and stroke were reaching epidemic proportions, he added. He called on the United Nations to assist in persuading international financial organizations that GDP per capita was not an accurate measure of national wealth, and that such a method of assessment would disqualify some country from needed concessionary financing. He also urged the full participation of the Republic of China ( Taiwan) in the United Nations and called for the lifting of the embargo on Cuba.
SAAD-EDDINE EL OTHMANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, pointing out that the Sahel remained stable in a very unstable region, attached great importance to the situation in Mali. The international community must continue to support reconciliation and democracy efforts there, he said, recalling the Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s visit as an opportunity to renew commitments to Mali’s security, stability, unity and development. Dealing with regional crises required an approach that went beyond just security. That approach must promote a dialogue between peoples and their State; pay particular attention to developing countries going through drought and abject poverty; and address the humanitarian dimension of “unspeakable suffering”.
On the Great Lakes region, he welcomed the signature of the framework agreement to strengthen dialogue and interregional cooperation to resolve the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A peace process must take into account that country’s territorial integrity. He reaffirmed the need to implement the United Nations strategy on the Sahel. A Sahel-Maghreb space was required to maintain peace in the region. Moving on to Syria, he commended the adoption of the recent Security Council resolution aimed at stopping the violence and achieving a political solution based on the Geneva talks. Addressing the humanitarian dimension was critical, he said, referring to the two million refugees and tens of thousands wounded. Morocco had established a rural hospital in Jordan to provide health services. Now was the time for the region to come together and put aside aspirations of isolationism and unilateralism. In that regard, he supported the re-launch of the Arab Maghreb Union which would promote a spirit of “cooperation and mediation”, not only critical to resolving conflict but also to preventing it.
On a national level, Morocco had launched a number of processes broadening the sphere of the rights of women, children, and persons with special needs, he said. The Constitution had a chapter with respect to human rights. The challenge was to find a balance between international and national commitments. Stressing the need to establish a mechanism for illegal migration and refugees, he referred to a new statute enacted on immigration and the right to grant asylum to political refugees. In line with respecting territorial integrity, he called for a resolution to the “ Sahara issue”, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions. On the matter, he recalled that Morocco launched an initiative of self-government and autonomy, which was modern and practical. Unfortunately other parties, involved in the matter for 30 years, had not allowed the advancement of the political process proposed.
OSMAN MOHAMMED SALEH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, spoke of the urgency of reforming the United Nations and redressing the injustices committed against the people of Eritrea. He said that the paralysis and constraints under which the United Nations had to operate in the realities of the Cold War and in a bipolar world, had accentuated the need for structural reform of the Organization. In his country’s case, the inalienable right to independence was “trampled at the onset of the Cold War since the country was perceived as a mere pawn in the overriding strategic rivalry of both superpowers,” he said. After 1991, the major powers which controlled the General Assembly secured and consolidated their total domination of the United Nations and blocked any reform of the body, he stated. Therefore, the twenty-first century required a revitalized United Nations that transcended a bipolar or unipolar world order, and was firmly rooted on the supremacy of, and respect for, international law and justice.
Turning to the issue of the independence of his country, he stated that “the inalienable national rights of the Eritrean people were compromised to serve the strategic interests of the United States that had emerged as a triumphant power.” Eritrea, he continued, had to endure colonial suppression for nearly 40 years, and its people had to wage their liberation struggle and achieve their independence in 1991. This historical truth illustrated, he said, the perils of a world order that was driven by the rivalry of super-powers and highlighted the need and urgency of an effective United Nations. The Eritrean people were neither compensated for the transgressions meted to them nor given respite in the subsequent years. As they embarked in the arduous task of rebuilding their war —torn country, he said, they again became pawns “in the wider Horn of Africa — Middle East chessboard of domination”.
Despite massive hostility, and in the face of tremendous odds, he added, the people and Government of Eritrea had remained steadfast, prioritized development efforts, and had worked persistently to contribute to regional peace and stability, including by fighting terrorism and piracy. He reiterated the country’s commitment to cooperate with regional and international partners, such as the United Nations, and to work for the betterment of his country, for peace, stability and integration in the Horn of Africa and in the world. He concluded by adding the voice of the Eritrean people to urge the United Nations General Assembly to adopt timely resolutions aimed at reform of the United Nations. Specifically, he called for the Organization to bring, inter alia, an end to the invasion of Eritrea’s sovereign territories and to lift sanctions against it.
SAMUEL SANTOS LÓPEZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, stressed the need for profound reform of the United Nations, emphasizing that the position of some permanent members of the Security Council could no longer be an insurmountable obstacle to progress. Power must fully lie in the General Assembly, he added. Turning to his region, he underscored the role of regional organizations which — through a shared vision on social development, education, health, environment, energy and finance — had been instrumental in finding a regional model to overcome poverty, hunger and inequality.
Outlining his country’s progress in areas of education and women’s rights, he said that according to UN-Women, Nicaragua was among the first countries in the world with such a high percentage of women in Government. Women held 54 per cent of positions in the executive branch and 60 per cent in the judiciary branch. He also mentioned improvements made in maternal mortality rates and HIV/AIDS prevention. On another note, he said, his country remained committed to the fight against drug trafficking and the various manifestations of transnational organized crime at the regional level through the implementation of the Central American Security Strategy. However, international support through additional financial resources remained critical.
On foreign policy, he condemned the United States embargo against Cuba and called for the immediate release of Cuban prisoners in the United States. He reiterated his support to Argentina in the dispute relating to the question of the Malvinas Islands. He also condemned the “arbitrary conduct” of the United States in preventing the aircraft of Venezuela’s President from flying over Puerto Rico. Reiterating support to Puerto Rico’s struggle for independence, he said it remained one of the last colonies on the continent. He said that he supported conflict resolution on Syria based on efforts undertaken by the Russian Federation, and greater participation of China-Taiwan in various international organizations.
ALVA ROMANUS BAPTISTE, Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation of Saint Lucia, noted that his country took part in many national consultations on the post-2015 development agenda, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Those consultations emphasized that Saint Lucia and other small island developing States had serious vulnerabilities which had escaped the attention of some development partners. The post-2015 agenda must address the issues of concern to small island developing States, such as rising sea level, non-communicable disease, loss and damage assessment and funding regarding natural and man-made disasters.
Among other concerns to his Government, he said, were the causes of climate change, particularly overdependence on fossil fuels, and its “decimating march on the debt profiles of small, under-developed and vulnerable economies”. The Caribbean region had hosted the conference on “Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States” in Barbados in May 2012, in which States had resolved to set targets for increasing the renewable component in the energy mix. As a member of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development, Saint Lucia acknowledged the work of the Committee on financing for sustainable development.
He joined other speakers from the Caribbean Community in drawing attention to a decision made by the Heads of State and Government of the regional bloc in July. The decision mandated Governments in the region to collectively seek reparations for exploitation during the transatlantic slave trade. Saint Lucia had agreed to the establishment of a Caribbean reparations commission that would prepare relevant documentation, and strategies, to pursue the practical achievement of that goal with the central focus of righting the wrongs of the past and elevating the status of the peoples.
JÁNOS MARTONYI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary, said the task facing the world was complex but clear — making development sustainable. That went beyond just protecting the environment and was about making societies, economies and the environment serve generations to come. A growing population, most of whom would live in cities, would demand more of a declining pool of natural resources, and the post-2015 development agenda had to reflect that and other important changes. A fundamental change in mindset was needed, and the new goals needed to be part of a single agenda through which the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals would be completed. Acknowledging the high costs of sustainable development, he said it would be “incomparably more costly” to do nothing.
Water and sanitation were of the utmost importance, he said, stressing that water was a source of life, health and prosperity but also of risks. He pointed to the Budapest Water Summit, scheduled for 8 to 11 October, which would take stock of various international developments in the field of water. As a “downstream country”, with 95 per cent of its fluvial waters originating beyond its State borders, Hungary had accumulated precious know-how in flood control, drinking water and wastewater treatment, and irrigation. He said the Summit would adopt the Budapest Statement and hoped it would contribute to discussions on the post-2015 agenda.
Appalling situations seen around the world left no doubt about interdependence, he said, calling for a cross-policy approach that accounted for those interrelationships and integrated them into the Organization’s various bodies and forums. He welcomed the United Nations’ efforts to mainstream human rights and encouraged national initiatives to protect them. Hungary had established the Budapest Human Rights Forum intended to apply an interrelated philosophy to address current human rights challenges. He stressed the importance of disarmament and non-proliferation to global peace and security, urging ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention and supporting establishment of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, as foreseen in the most recent NPT Review Conference in 2010. He was confident that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s entry into force would strengthen peace and security, consigning the era of testing “to history books”. Further efforts were needed and Hungary would pursue the goal during a stint as coordinator of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty between 2013 and 2015.
FRANÇOIS LOUNCENY FALL, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Guineans Abroad of Guinea, said he was proud that his country’s recent legislative elections showed a transition to democracy. Assistance received by Guinea’s partners and the catalytic dialogue they had promoted had been vital to the process and allowed the Government to fulfil its rich potential. He welcomed the recent elections in Mali, stating that the country was emerging from its crisis and underlining the vulnerability of such States to terror and extremism. The international community had mobilized unanimously to uphold Mali’s territorial integrity and Constitution. The country now needed stability and security, not least because its future was tied to that of the entire Sahel region. He underlined the vital importance of the Mano River Union’s efforts to consolidate peace in Guinea-Bissau and of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, in helping to reform the defence sector and to boost youth employment and women’s empowerment, all of which helped to consolidate national reconciliation.
He called on all parties in the Great Lakes region to adhere to the framework agreement for peace. In the Central African Republic urgent measures were needed to prevent the State from collapse. Sudan and South Sudan must resolve their disagreements over Abyei and work to improve bilateral cooperation. On the Millennium Development Goals, he said that despite undeniable progress, particularly in the fields of economic growth, education, gender equality and child health, it was important to realize that some results had not met expectations. That was particularly important given that the international community was currently formulating its post-2015 agenda. He called for new ideas for dealing with extreme poverty and urged a focus on natural resources.
The new agenda needed to be backed by reaffirmed solidarity, while South-South Cooperation and innovative methods of financing development were needed to help bridge the gap left by official development assistance (ODA), he said. He supported the African position on the creation of an international committee dealing with the post-2015 development agenda and underlined the stress he placed on the importance of multilateralism. The United Nations was an irreplaceable framework, and he was committed to ensuring that it remained that way. It was up to leaders to draw up the plans and to pursue fruitful dialogue. The United Nations system needed to be re-cast to respond better to the needs of the moment, and it was time to listen to those voices and create an environment suited to sustainable development.
ALBERT F. DEL ROSARIO, Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said his country was one of 66 nations chosen by the United Nations to conduct consultations with a broad range of stakeholders on the content of the post-2015 development agenda. Based on those consultations, the Philippines had identified four main principles on which the agenda should be anchored: human rights; equality, people’s empowerment, social cohesion and justice; accountable governance; and inclusive development. It had also proposed that the post-2015 development agenda be set for 10 years, with a major review undertaken by 2020.
He went on to say that the agenda should also squarely address migration — a cross-cutting issue relevant to efforts to promote human rights, reduce poverty and foster sustainable development. The Philippines, for its part, would continue to advocate the protection of the rights of migrants, regardless of their status; the recognition of migrants’ positive contribution to development in both sending and receiving countries; and the creation of programmes that supported families, especially children left behind.
Achieving sustainable development would require an enabling environment of peace, security and the rule of law, he continued. To that end, his country’s approach in managing conflicts within, and outside, its borders was anchored in international law, he said, reaffirming the Philippines’ unwavering support for the International Court of Justice and the various specialized tribunals, such as the dispute settlement mechanisms of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The post-2015 development agenda also demanded that Governments address the devastating effects of climate change and natural disasters. As one of the countries most at risk for typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, the Philippines would continue to share its knowledge and experience in disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery to help other States better manage similar occurrences.
MAXINE PAMELA OMETA MCCLEAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, said debt sustainability was a critical issue not only for Barbados, but for many of the small island developing States, as it was a major constraint to those countries in achieving sustainable development. Another issue of concern to Barbados was the international financial services sector, as it was believed that the sustainability of the country’s development was being stymied by attempts to undermine this very important sector.
Calling for international support for island States, she said the post-2015 Development Agenda should involve a wide range of commitments, including: the eradication of poverty and hunger; environmental sustainability; the development of renewable energy technologies; the pursuit of a sustainable agriculture agenda, in tandem with food and nutrition security; gender equality and women's empowerment; and youth development, education and employment. In addition, emphasis should be put on the inclusion of vulnerable groups, the requisite means of implementation, and the integration of appropriate systems for accountability, monitoring, evaluation and reporting, as well as good governance, respect for human rights, and the rule of the law. “This is not a mere shopping list,” she emphasized, as all those issues were inextricably linked and must be tackled simultaneously.
Stressing the inextricable link between development and international peace and security, she expressed concern over the number of national, regional and international conflicts raging around the world, particularly the Syrian crisis. In Barbados and the Caribbean region in general, illicit small arms and light weapons were “the weapons of mass destruction”, she went on to say, expressing hope that implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty would lead to a reduction in the flow of illicit small arms and light weapons, thus contributing to the reduction in armed conflict and violence. Barbados was also concerned about the economic embargo on Cuba, as well as its extraterritorial impact on countries in and outside the Caribbean region, and called for ending the embargo soon.
U WUNNA MAUNG LWIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, joined the ”Group of 77” developing countries and China in stressing that the key implementation gaps of the Millennium Development Goals and the poverty agenda must be addressed, with national efforts buttressed by international support. Achieving inclusive and sustainable development would be the United Nations’ biggest challenge in the twenty-first century. The international community should trust the world body’s capacity and capability for maintaining international peace and security, safeguarding fundamental human rights and promoting development.
The existence of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, posed the greatest threat to mankind, he said. His country, since 1995, had submitted the annual resolution on nuclear disarmament, calling on nuclear-weapon States to immediately cease the qualitative improvement, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and to take measures to totally eliminate them within a specified time frame. On 17 August, Myanmar signed the Additional Protocol to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement.
Myanmar was undergoing political reform, he said, adding that a firm foundation for a democratic society had been established, including with help of civil society. A new culture of dialogue and accommodation was cultivated, and political actors were taking a forward-looking approach to sustain the reforms. A ceasefire agreement had been reached between the Government and all armed groups for the first time in over 60 years; however, the hard-won peace would not be sustainable until Myanmar met the economic and social needs of its people. In that pursuit, the country had opened up the economy through economic liberalization, financial reforms, foreign investment, people-centred development approaches, rural development, and poverty alleviation. There were “always people who wish to rock the boat”, but, he said, the Government would take a zero-tolerance approach to anyone fuelling ethnic hatred. Expectations were high for Myanmar, and while it was still in the critical transition period, it would march resolutely forward along its chosen path, as there was no turning back, he said.
LYONPO RINZIN DORJE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bhutan , said it was a time of extraordinary challenges: while some had been able to achieve tremendous economic growth and prosperity, millions continued to languish in inhuman depths of poverty. The international community’s drive for economic growth had come at the cost of the environment; with climate change and natural disasters striking with increasing frequency and severity. The stage was set to craft a post-2015 development agenda, for which the Millennium Declaration provided a strong foundation, and the international community should emphasize its relevance. The Rio+20 outcome also outlined important principles, on which the follow-on agenda should be built. “Those principles must guide our efforts to come up with a holistic and transformative development agenda that puts people at the centre of development and brings about shared prosperity and happiness to all,” he said.
Within that broader vision, he said, poverty eradication must be the central theme, and for Bhutan, poverty alleviation remained a challenge and key priority in the country’s eleventh five-year development plan. Women’s empowerment should be another main building block of the post-2015 development agenda because, without that as a key component, the agenda would fall short. While Bhutan’s economic progress had been significant, the country faced many challenges and vulnerabilities, being both a landlocked and least developed country. Its economy remained import-driven and dependent on a single export commodity. Poverty, youth unemployment, natural disasters and vulnerability to adverse impacts of climate change, including glacial lake outburst floods, posed challenges, and his country would consequently continue to count on external assistance as it worked towards achieving its long cherished goal of self-reliance and graduation from the least developed country category.
He said the United Nations, with its global scope and mandate, remained the only universal organization able to forge a global coordinated response to the pressing challenges, ranging from peace and security to development. To that end, he called for every effort to be made to strengthen its role and efficacy in a way that was just, democratic and representative, and allowed space for its members, including the smallest ones, to participate fully in its work. “This is key to the legitimacy of an effective multilateral system,” he concluded.
WINSTON GUNO LACKIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Suriname, noted that while most developing countries were performing well in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, developed countries were lagging behind in fulfilling their commitments to Goal 8, on partnerships, in terms of making their aid pledges viable and effective. “We have learned the important lesson that developing countries are obliged to undertake adequate measures to strengthen economic interactions among themselves, in addition to ties with their traditional trading partners in the North,” he said, stressing that South-South Cooperation should be an important consideration for setting a new stage for global sustainable development. While Suriname’s upgrade by the international financial institutions from low- to middle-income status was encouraging, using per capita income as the major indicator for determining development status had “manoeuvred us into a position where we have lost access to necessary concessional loans and grants”.
In the face of diverse challenges, Suriname continued to build on its own strength as the main driving force for the achievement of the development agenda, he continued. It was developing policies and programmes to fight non-communicable diseases, which had become the highest cause of death in Suriname, and also had led to decreased productivity. The Government also attached great importance to improving education and conditions for youth. Global warming had a direct negative impact on the development of small island developing and low-lying coastal States, including his own, he said, calling for the inclusion of climate change in the post-2015 development agenda.
In setting the stage for development beyond 2015, the various threats to international peace could not be ignored, he said. Challenges related to armed conflicts, poverty, food, environment, education, public health, migration and energy would require increased collaboration among all partners. On the Middle East, he expressed hope that a two-State solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would “get more substance”. He also reiterated Suriname’s position that the multilateral process within the United Nations should prevail in finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. In addition, he called for lifting the years-long embargo on Cuba, as well as increasing international support for Haiti.
NICKOLAS STEELE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Business of Grenada, said that the session’s theme embodied the fundamental concerns of all countries, but particularly those of small island developing States. While several of those countries had been newly promoted to middle-income status, they continued to struggle with high debt burdens, which were worsened by climate change and high fossil-fuel import bills. They also struggled with low productivity, financial constraints, and limited prospects for immediate growth. “The point is this: per capita contrast to costs to climate vulnerability did more harm than good.”
To put that in perspective, he said that damages done to the United States by Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina were between 0.5 per cent and 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), while hurricanes that hit island economies could cost up to 200 per cent of GDP. He urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to translate the recognition of climate vulnerability into official developmental assistance (ODA) for small island developing States. Also contributing to the indebtedness and fiscal unsustainability was the volatility and high prices of fossil-fuel imports, he said, pointing out that, on average, small island developing States were paying between 20 and 40 cents per kilowatt for electricity, as compared to prices of 5 to 15 cents in developed countries. Creating a level playing field would give many more private-sector players a role in innovative and sustainable power-generation solutions.
On foreign policy, he condemned the recent deadly use of chemical weapons in Syria and welcomed the Security Council resolution to destroy those weapons. Work was under way in Grenada to implement the Arms Trade Treaty, a sign of its commitment to national and international security. On Israeli-Palestinian relations, he remained convinced that a two-State solution was essential to ending the conflict, and he urged both parties to resume negotiations. The Arab Spring, through social media use, underscored technology as a tool for democracy and for engaging youth. Like previous speakers, he too called for a lifting of the embargo on Cuba, saying it was a cold war relic that caused unnecessary suffering.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Indonesia said his Government rejected the statement concerning the so-called “issue of West Papua” made by the Prime Minister of Vanuatu on 28 September. Such statements reflected an “unfortunate lack of understanding” of basic facts on the historical role of the United Nations and the principled position of the international community at large, as well as the current actual developments in the provinces of Papua and West Papua in Indonesia. They suggested an utter refusal to acknowledge certain basic facts on matters relating to those provinces, or the efforts of his Government and the local authorities in promoting the general welfare and prosperity of the province’s people. His delegation was “only too conscious” that internal political dynamics in Vanuatu had often played a role in raising the issue at the United Nations. That had been acknowledged in a statement made by the Vanuatu Prime Minister’s office in May 2012, published in the Vanuatu Daily Post, which said that “in Vanuatu, the West Papua issue had been politicized and used by different political parties and movements, not for the interests of the people in West Papua, but more so for elections and political campaign propaganda”.
Indonesia for its part would not be distracted by such inclinations, and continued with its development efforts in the provinces through the implementation of the special autonomy, he said. It would persevere in the promotion of friendly relations with the Government and people of Vanuatu based on the relevant principles.
The representative of Pakistan said that, on 27 September, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh had used the General Assembly forum to make references to Pakistan that were not supported by facts. He was deeply dismayed by the statement because Pakistan and Bangladesh were brotherly countries, and at one point, they were the citizens of one country. Even today, there was warmth and goodwill between the peoples, and multiple channels of communication were open between the two Governments. Bangladesh’s statement had contained a misrepresentation of facts. Raising an issue that had little relevance in contemporary relations was counterproductive. Despite that, the Government and the people of Pakistan would work to strengthen friendly ties with their counterparts in Bangladesh.
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