24 September 2016
Seventy-first Session, 20th & 21st (AM & PM)

Senior Officials in General Assembly Voice Fears over Climate Change, International Banking Regulations, as Annual Debate Continues

Decrying ‘Lip Service’ to United Nations Ideals, Speakers Declare Time for New Direction, Embracing Era of Engagement

While the United Nations had been founded on the belief that States could solve problems collectively, the time had come to move in a new direction, the General Assembly heard today, as speakers underlined the need to embrace a new era of engagement based on common needs, innovative ideas and mutual respect.

During the day-long discussion, speakers representing several developing and least developed countries as well as small island States said they remained marginalized from the world’s bounty, pointing out that the current global order paid only lip service to the universal principles and ideals of the United Nations.

Indeed, it was time to recognize that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, said Prime Minister Gaston Alphonso Browne of Antigua and Barbuda.  The latest challenge facing the Caribbean region was the withdrawal by global banks of correspondent banking regulations for its financial institutions, a practice known as “de-risking”.  The region would be cut off from the world trading system, which would lead to economic collapse as well as rising poverty, crime, refugee numbers and human trafficking.  Huge opportunities for money-laundering and terrorism financing would be created, he said, warning that no country would be immune from those consequences.

Prime Minister Allen Michael Chastanet of Saint Lucia declared:  “We must decide whether the United Nations can continue to be a place where we lament our outdated grievances or a place where we begin to forge common ground.”  Although Saint Lucia’s voice was supposed to be equal to the voices of other countries, realpolitik had proven the contrary, he said.  There was no need to perpetuate a world order that elevated one group of nations over others.

Nepal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said that international finance and trade must be responsive to the needs and concerns of least developed and landlocked developing countries.  Echoing that sentiment, Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh of Viet Nam said developing countries were suffering amid weak global economic recovery, protectionism in major economies, climate change and epidemics.

A number of speakers expressed concern about the impact of climate change and the lack of sustainable climate financing.  Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini of Swaziland said:  “The negative impact of climate change has become a thorn in our economy.”  It had depleted the country’s limited financial resources, killed an alarming number of livestock and destroyed most of the ecosystem.  A serious reduction in the amount of water had exacerbated food insecurity, compelling the Government to declare the drought a national disaster.

Similarly, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi of Malaysia pointed out that climate-related disasters, such as landslides and coastal erosion, had affected livelihoods, economic activity and the safety of populations.  “If left unchecked, I am afraid climate change could, in fact, constitute the greatest threat multiplier for global security,” he warned.

Prime Minister Timothy S. Harris of Saint Kitts and Nevis reinforced that point, saying that a single climate event could wreak havoc on every aspect of life.  Calling for a strategy to promote climate financing, he declared:  “It means nothing to say that billions of dollars are available for climate financing if the mechanisms for accessing them are opaque, prohibitive and extremely difficult to penetrate.”

The economic impact of environmental damage was dire, a number of speakers said, stressing that more urgent and wide-ranging action was needed to ensure the survival of their countries.  Francine Baron, Dominica’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, recalled that Tropical Storm Erika had killed 30 of her fellow citizens and caused economic damages estimated at $483 million, the equivalent of 90 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Also taking the floor today, Walid Al-Moualem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, said that his country’s citizens had paid dearly for terrorist crimes, but would not relent in their fight.  Their belief in victory was even greater now that the Syrian Arab Army — with the support of the Russian Federation, Iran and the National Lebanese Resistance — had made great strides in the war.  He welcomed international efforts to fight terrorism in Syria, but emphasized the need to coordinate with the Government.  Uncoordinated action would be considered a breach of sovereignty and a violation of the United Nations Charter.  Speaking critically of a number of States, he reiterated his Government’s commitment to moving forward with the Geneva peace talks, under the auspices of the United Nations.

Also participating in today’s debate were speakers representing Timor-Leste, Tonga, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Ireland, Iceland, Tajikistan, Congo, Kyrgyzstan, Gabon, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Cambodia, Barbados, Burundi, Somalia, Maldives, Bhutan, Grenada and Mauritania.

Representatives of Turkey, Indonesia, China and the Philippines spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Monday, 26 September, to conclude its general debate.


RUI MARIA DE ARAÚJO, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, said that promoting intergovernmental coherence while strengthening the Peacebuilding Commission and partnerships would improve the United Nations system.  “Our joint efforts need to be able to respond more effectively to the challenges facing our nations and peoples,” he said, expressing concern over inequality and conflicts.  International peace and security could only be maintained if countries became an integral part of solutions to problems.  Regional integration generated opportunities for economic development and contributed to national and regional peace and stability, he said, adding that his country aspired to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the opportunity to fulfil the dreams of its people.

“Without peace and stability, we cannot think of development,” he continued, reiterating his commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In 2015, Timor-Leste had joined a group of eight other countries to serve as models for implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and the Government had formed an inter-ministerial working group to map indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals.  It had selected 20 targets to monitor their implementation.  Among other things, Timor-Leste would convene a high-level international conference in March 2017 to discuss ways to advance the 2030 Agenda under the most difficult circumstances, he said.  “We are committed to show our youth how important their role is in achieving these Goals,” he said, calling upon all stakeholders to contribute.  While it was not an easy exercise, the Government was working towards harmonizing the Goals with national activities and budget.

He went on to note that the situation of refugees and migrants remained unresolved and deserved further focused attention and support.  “We need to establish a frank political dialogue and international partnerships to ensure continued respect for human rights and humanitarian assistance,” he said.  Having experienced conflict, Timor-Leste knew only too well the high price of war and was ready to contribute to United Nations peacekeeping operations.  Furthermore, it had ratified the relevant conventions and strengthened its commitments to fight terrorism and organized crime.  Turning to the issue of maritime boundaries, he emphasized that, even 14 years after Timor-Leste had become the 191st Member State of the United Nations, it had not defined its maritime boundaries with Indonesia and Australia.  “The delimitation of our maritime borders will ensure our sovereign rights and give us certainty with respect to what belongs to us,” he said.  Delimitation was also essential in order to ensure economic stability and self-sufficiency, and to create a better future for Timor-Leste’s people.  For that reason, the Government had started a process of compulsory conciliation in April in order to resolve disputes under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said, adding that he was confident the panel of experts would contribute to an amicable solution.

ALLEN MICHAEL CHASTANET, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service of Saint Lucia, said “old habits and old arguments” were irrelevant to the challenges of today, and called upon the United States to lift its embargo against Cuba.  Most of the world’s challenges stemmed from the denial of access to basic human rights, such as education, health care, justice and security.  The very format of engaging in a “general debate” was a contradiction because, while many spoke, few “stayed around to listen” and far fewer responded, he pointed out.  “We wonder how and why this entity is so negatively perceived by the persons we are elected to serve?”

As a small island State, Saint Lucia’s voice was meant to be equal, but realpolitik had proven the contrary, he continued.  Instead of being invited to participate in a solution to the world’s challenges, small islands had been forced to adopt programmes created by more advanced States, only to be criticized by the very same countries and branded as tax havens.  “We are left to dance between the raindrops,” he said, noting that, while deeply affected by the 2008 financial crisis, they had not participated in the solutions.

The Group of 20 had a legitimacy problem because it was unofficial and non-inclusive, he said, adding that many of its members championed the very financial and economic systems that had created the crisis, he said, emphasizing that there was no need to perpetuate a world order that elevated one group of nations over others.  Recalling that the United Nations had been founded on the belief that nations could solve problems collectively, and rooted in the hard lessons of war, he said the time had come to move in a new direction.  With the advent of the technological revolution, there was a need to embrace a new era of engagement based on common needs, innovative ideas and mutual respect, he stressed.  “We must decide whether the United Nations can continue to be a place where we lament our outdated grievances or a place where we begin to forge common ground.”

GASTON ALPHONSO BROWNE, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Corporate Governance of Antigua and Barbuda, expressed support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and disappointment that many of its goals remained aspirational, lacking legally binding funding commitments.  “We are realistic enough not to reject the good for the perfect,” he said, adding that his Government would continue to advocate for fairness and equity in pursuing the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Earlier this week, Antigua and Barbuda had deposited its instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change and urged other nations to do the same.  “Time is not on our side,” he said, warning that, even at a temperature rise of 1.5°C, many countries — or parts of them — would be washed away.  The ravages of climate change would also generate many refugees and displaced persons.

He said that, as a solution to those challenges, his country had repeatedly proposed debt swaps for climate change adaptation and mitigation.  That plan included the provision of soft loans to stop further debt accumulation, while helping to build resilience to global warming and sea-level rise.  International financial institutions and donor Governments must stop using per capita income as the criterion by which nations qualified for loans, he emphasized, while noting that such pleas had long fallen on deaf ears.  Year after year, Heads of Government of small States had called on the Assembly to address those challenges to no avail.  “We remain trapped in the reality of a narrow tax base, high debt, large trade deficits, small underdeveloped domestic financial markets, small private sectors and fragile banking systems,” he said, adding that the latest challenge facing the Caribbean region was the withdrawal by global banks of correspondent banking regulations for its financial institutions — known as “de-risking”.

As a result of that practice, he continued, the region would be cut off from the world trading system, which would lead to economic collapse, as well as rising poverty, crime, refugee numbers and human trafficking.  Huge opportunities for money-laundering and terrorism financing would be created.  Warning that no country would be immune from those consequences, he said that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had decided to convene a high-level conference on the matter, to be held in Antigua on 27 and 28 October.  In that regard, he called upon the Assembly to recognize the substantial and dangerous threat posed by de-risking and work to address it constructively.  Pointing out that developing countries and small States remained marginalized from the world’s bounty, he said the current global order paid only lip service to the universal principles and ideals of the United Nations.  Indeed, it was time to recognize that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, he stressed.

TIMOTHY S. HARRIS, Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, said many global problems stemmed from years of social neglect and economic inequalities.  Solving them would require greater partnership and finding common ground.  Critical to transforming the world was the empowerment of young people, and significant intervention would be required to feed their sense of leadership and civic responsibility.  Saint Kitts and Nevis had focused on job creation, skills enhancement, entrepreneurship and support for teen mothers.  Small arms and light weapons had also had devastating effects on young lives, and while the Government had ratified the Arms Trade Treaty, it needed support, he said.

Indeed, given the country’s small size, one climate event could wreak havoc on every aspect of life, he said, calling for a strategy to promote climate financing.  “It means nothing to say that billions of dollars are available for climate financing if the mechanisms for accessing them are opaque, prohibitive and extremely difficult to penetrate,” he pointed out, urging “common sense cooperation”.  Small islands were also being marginalized in the global financial system, he said, noting that 16 banks across five countries had lost all or some of their correspondent banking relationships in the first half of 2016, placing their financial lifelines at great risk.

Urging the Group of Seven, the Group of 20 and international financial bodies to re-evaluate how and whether a country qualified for concessional support, he said that the arbitrary classification of some small States as middle-income countries could never make sense when one could grow at 4 to 6 per cent one year only to see nearly 100 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) wiped out by a tropical storm.  Noting the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, he called for lower treatment costs for non-communicable diseases.  Saint Kitts and Nevis had forged durable partnerships that had been integral to its efforts to modernize its economy, he said, adding that Cuba’s support in the areas of education and training, health care, agriculture and heritage development had dwarfed the assistance provided by many advanced economies.  Support from Taiwan had also been remarkable, he said, welcoming new opportunities for that country’s integration into the international community.  He also decried the nuclear tests carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in violation of Security Council resolution 2270 (2016).

BARNABAS SIBUSISO DLAMINI, Prime Minister of Swaziland, said that his country had started mainstreaming and popularizing the Sustainable Development Goals through awareness-raising campaigns, education and training at all levels.  In addition, the country had integrated the Goals into the national development framework.  In that regard, appropriate institutional arrangements had been put in place to monitor the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.  Both the executive and legislative arms of Government were fully involved and progress was periodically reported to the Cabinet and to Parliament.  Among other things, the Government had translated its national “Vision 2022” into practical and feasible targets so as to expedite economic growth while improving health care, service delivery, infrastructure and governance, as well as fighting corruption.

Turning to climate change, he expressed commitment to fighting global warming, pointing out that Swaziland had participated in all the negotiations that had culminated in the adoption and subsequent signing of the Paris Agreement.  “The negative impact of climate change has become a thorn in our economy,” he said, adding that it had depleted the country’s limited financial resources, killed an alarming number of livestock and destroyed most of the ecosystem.  At the same time, drought had led to a serious reduction in the amount of water required for crop production, human use and consumption, and exacerbated food and nutrition insecurity.  In view of that situation, the Government had declared drought a national disaster, he said.

Noting that his country continued to be a big and active player in promoting regional and continental integration, he recalled that in August, Swaziland had hosted the thirty-sixth Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government Summit — under the theme “resource mobilization for investment in sustainable energy infrastructure” — which had focused on inclusive industrialization.  Furthermore, Swaziland was a signatory to a number of trade integration arrangements, ranging from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to the Tripartite Free Trade Area.  Those arrangements had opened up preferential market access opportunities to maximize trade at the regional and international levels, he said.

SAMIUELA 'AKILISI POHIVA, Prime Minister of Tonga, said that his country continuously advocated for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its natural resources.  Tonga attached great importance to Sustainable Development Goal 14 and believed it could be attained through set targets and indicators.  In that regard, the country looked forward to the first United Nations conference on Goal 14 as an opportunity to see where the international community stood in terms of conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources.  Regarding the exploitation of biological diversity, he said that regulation of areas beyond national jurisdictions was yet to be realized.  In accordance with the 2014 decision of Pacific Island Forum leaders, Tonga supported the ongoing process of preparatory meetings.

He said that his country paid close attention to the interaction of the ocean with climate, noting that Tonga had signed and ratified the Paris Agreement.  “We cannot face the challenges of climate change alone,” he emphasized.  Calling attention to his country’s clear and unambiguous links to international peace and security, he called upon the Special Representative on Climate and Security, as well as the Security Council, to raise the issue in the necessary platforms.  “Tonga is the third most vulnerable country in the world to the adverse impacts of climate change,” he said, stressing that their seriousness could not be underestimated.

Noting that the maintenance of international peace and security would be determined by the issue of disarmament, he said the proliferation of weapons in all their forms not only threatened international peace and security, but demonstrated the sheer waste of financial resources.  Those funds might be better spent on international sustainable development initiatives and improving people’s lives, he pointed out.  Part of the challenge of ensuring equitable development was preventing unfair economic dominance by one country over another, which had resulted in the suffering of innocent people, and was not acceptable.  In that regard, he congratulated the United States on its incremental easing of restrictions on its economic interactions with in Cuba.  Among other things, he expressed concern about the welfare of the Pacific peoples in West Papua Province of Indonesia.  Regarding human rights abuses in that province, he called for an open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the status and welfare of West Papuans.

PHAM BINH MINH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, said the Sustainable Development Goals were within reach, with reform, innovation, creativity and economic restructuring setting countries on a prosperous path.  Yet, developing countries were suffering amid weak global economic recovery, protectionism in major economies, climate change and epidemics.  Of particular concern were conflict and terrorism in many regions.

He called for strengthening multilateralism and the operation of multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, given the Organization’s indispensable role in coordinating responses to global challenges.  The Security Council must be reformed to ensure greater equality, democracy and transparency, while the development system should be better resourced, he emphasized.  Viet Nam supported the broadest participation of countries in the formulation of resolutions, he said.

“International law remains the linchpin of a stable international security architecture,” he said, while noting that unilateralism had created tensions.  Peace could be achieved through a comprehensive approach that harmonized the interests of all stakeholders, he said, welcoming the positive developments between Cuba and the United States in that regard.  He urged all parties involved in recent developments in the South China Sea to exercise self-restraint and to resolve disputes peacefully.

WALID AL-MOUALEM, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, said his people had paid dearly for the crimes of terrorists who had undermined their security, stability and livelihoods.  It was no secret that Qatar and Saudi Arabia had played a role in spreading terrorism throughout Syria, promoting their Wahhabist ideology and equipping mercenaries with sophisticated weapons.  Meanwhile, Turkey had opened its borders and provided logistical support to tens of thousands of terrorists from around the world, he said.

In spite of that, Syrians would not relent in the fight, he vowed, saying that their belief in victory was even greater now that the Syrian Arab Army — with the support of the Russian Federation, Iran and the Lebanese national resistance — had made great strides in the war.  While welcoming international efforts to fight terrorism in Syria, he emphasized the need to coordinate with the Government, warning that any uncoordinated action would be considered a breach of sovereignty and a violation of the United Nations Charter.  As such, the Syrian Government strongly condemned the attack on a Syrian army site near Deir ez-Zor Airport by United States warplanes on 17 September, he said.

He went on to condemn Turkey’s incursion into Syrian territory, calling for an end to “this flagrant aggression”.  Any solution to the crisis must follow parallel counter-terrorism and political tracks through the intra-Syrian dialogue, which would enable Syrians to determine the future of their country without foreign interference.  Despite hurdles created by regional and Western States on behalf of the self-proclaimed “Syrian opposition”, the Government had always been open to a political track that would stop the bloodshed and end the prolonged suffering of Syrians.  On that note, he reiterated his Government’s commitment to moving forward with the Geneva peace talks, under the auspices of the United Nations.

AHMAD ZAHID HAMIDI, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, said that his Government’s national development plan was based on three pillars — increasing incomes, focusing on inclusiveness and promoting sustainability.  Malaysia had initiated several programmes that would provide technical and vocational training to facilitate the entry of young professionals into the labour market, and to establish the country as the start-up capital of Asia, he said.  However, sustainable development could be hampered by the devastating impacts of climate change, as witnessed by various small island developing States.  The phenomenon presented “an existential threat to their subsistence”.

He went on to point out that the world had witnessed an increase in the intensity and frequency of climate-related disasters, such as landslides and coastal erosions, which had affected livelihoods, economic activity and the safety of populations.  “If left unchecked, I am afraid climate change could, in fact, constitute the greatest threat multiplier for global security,” he warned.  The international community must follow through with the commitments made in Paris, he said, noting that Malaysia had committed to reducing its greenhouse-gas emission intensity of GDP by up to 45 per cent by 2030.

Turning to peace and security, he noted that the international community continued to witness horrific acts by non-State actors.  However, the fight against extremists would not be won exclusively through the use of force or punitive measures, which was why Malaysia had focused on de-radicalization and rehabilitation programmes to change the mindsets of radicalized individuals, in addition to complementary forms of humanitarian assistance to help them reintegrate into society.  The success rate of those programmes had been around 97.5 per cent, he said, adding that the Government was prepared to share its experience with other countries since “no nation is immune to the threat posed by international terrorism”.

PASQUALE VALENTI, Minister for Foreign and Political Affairs of San Marino, described the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as one of the most important moments in the Organization’s history.  The 2030 Agenda defined the planet’s future and the vision of the world “we want to live in”.  In particular, San Marino appreciated the commitment shown by Member States to reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by 2020, and attached great importance to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the monitoring mechanism identified during the High-Level Political Forum.

Emphasizing the need for all international stakeholders to play their part, he said that his country had made several humanitarian contributions in recent months.  Apart from its financial contribution to international programmes, San Marino had joined the humanitarian corridor project supported by Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and had hosted some migrants.  San Marino recognized that a culture of understanding and peaceful coexistence among different people was the only way to face the challenges of globalization and build a planet for all, he said.

AURELIA FRICK, Foreign Minister of Liechtenstein, said migration should be a choice not a necessity.  Exploiting fears for political gain was cynical and unproductive, while preventing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes would eliminate one of the main reasons why people were forced to flee their homes.  The Security Council had an opportunity to enter a new phase of its historical engagement in crises.  “The world is looking to this Organization to provide this engagement, and it is too often disappointed,” she said, reminding leaders that, for 70 years, it had been illegal to engage in armed conflict except in narrowly defined circumstances.  Accountable institutions, access to justice for everyone and significant reduction of corruption were all key ingredients of sustainable development.  “Only if it is clear that nobody is above the law can the law prevail,” she said, adding that it was, therefore, crucial to ensure accountability for the most serious crimes under international law.

She said she looked forward to the completion of the Rome Statute, which would give the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over the crime of aggression and criminalize the most serious forms of the illegal use of force.  While the Court was the strongest symbol that impunity was no longer an option, it was not a solution to all problems.  Noting that more than 45 million people lived in conditions that qualified as modern slavery, generating billions of dollars, she said modern slavery was the biggest human rights scandal of modern times.  To combat one of the biggest illegal business models, Liechtenstein would focus on disrupting financial flows and using relevant data for criminal prosecutions.  It would also work towards greater involvement of international justice mechanisms where national judiciaries systematically failed.  While the best person for the job should be appointed the next Secretary-General, she said it would make her “very happy if this person was to be a woman”.

CHARLES FLANAGAN, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, said the Sustainable Development Goals had the capacity to address many of the root causes of mass migration, including poverty, inequality and climate change.  In tandem with long-term development efforts, a multilateral response was needed to address the more urgent needs of migrants and refugees, he said, noting that his country was doing its part through a €60 million pledge in support of the Syrian people, and its participation in a European Union resettlement programme.  In addition to humanitarian relief, greater investment was needed in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconciliation, he said, emphasizing the importance of ensuring greater representation of women in those and other activities — a goal that Ireland would prioritize during its membership of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2017.

He welcomed the French initiative to revive the stalled Middle East peace process and reaffirmed his support for United Nations efforts to bring an end to the conflict in Syria through dialogue and diplomacy.  Turning to Africa, he called for a “transparent, accountable and human-rights-based resolution” of the continent’s numerous conflicts, which were undermining sustainable development efforts.  While reaffirming Ireland’s commitment to United Nations peacekeeping operations, he emphasized his country’s absolute condemnation of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.  “Ireland calls for an end to impunity for these crimes,” he said, stressing his country’s commitment to hold its own troops accountable for their behaviour while deployed overseas.  Finally, he called for Security Council reform and for African representation, in particular.

LILJA DÖGG ALFREÐSDÓTTIR, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Iceland, addressed a number of her country’s key priorities, including the migration crisis, climate change, minority rights and the protection of international law.  Recalling the mass migration of Icelanders to North America at the end of the nineteenth century, she called upon the international community to “step up to the plate” in response to the current migration crisis, saying Iceland would have taken in 100 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016.  In proportion to its size, that number would have been equivalent to 100,000 refugees in the United States, she observed.  Emphasizing the need to resolve several protracted conflicts in the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the crisis in Syria and the dispute over Western Sahara, she said injustice and the failure of governance were driving them.

She said education was a precondition of good governance and a key pillar of her country’s development cooperation.  On the issue of minority rights, she stressed the need to protect the rights of women, as well as those of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.  Pointing out that she was one of only 30 female foreign ministers around the world, she underlined how far the world still had to go and welcomed in that regard the strong field of female candidates for the position of United Nations Secretary-General.  Regarding the Paris Agreement on climate change, she said that Iceland had “handed over its instruments of ratification earlier this week” and aimed to present its progress in two years’ time.  Finally, she expressed concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, saying it was in violation of international law and threatened the security of its own people, the wider region and the world.  “For a small and peaceful country like mine, international law is our sword, shield and shelter,” she said.

SIRODJIDIN ASLOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan, said that, while the global community had recently made headway in the area of development, it had been less successful in addressing issues of peace and security.  In particular, combating international terrorism and violent extremism had become a top priority.  There was a need to develop national, regional and international mechanisms aimed at eliminating military infrastructures, financing channels, logistical support, recruiting and propaganda of violence, as well as the use of modern information and communications technology (ICT) for purposes of terror.  Preventing illicit drug trafficking, which had turned into a breeding ground for terrorism and organized crime, also required concerted joint action.  Tajikistan stood for a comprehensive settlement of the crises in the Middle East, which would help to enhance global security, he said, while also expressing support for the international strategy for a comprehensive settlement and post-conflict reconstruction in neighbouring Afghanistan.

With the setting of the 2030 Agenda, the world had begun a process of transformation, he said.  “It is obvious that the path towards sustainable development is not going to be easy and smooth,” he said, noting that both traditional and emerging challenges presented additional and complex tasks, seriously undermining security and stability around the globe.  The response required regional cooperation and political will, reinforced by adequate means of implementation.  It was crucial to remember that countries in special situations — including least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States — would begin implementing the 2030 Agenda under less favourable conditions and required special support.  Underlining the importance of water in the 2030 Agenda, he warned that climate change, urbanization and population growth would exacerbate water-related challenges.  In that regard, countries must work together on a new water agenda, particularly in cases of waters shared among various sectors, such as health, agriculture, energy and navigation.

PRAKASH SHARAN MAHAT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, said the international community’s failure to agree a comprehensive convention on terrorism was highly frustrating.  He called for speedy resolution of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, and expressed support for lasting peace in the Middle East.  Nepal would remain committed to fulfilling its international obligations and providing additional troops and civilians to United Nations peacekeeping operations, he said.  For peace missions to be successful there must be unity of purpose in mobilizing the Security Council’s political capital, clearly defined mandates and adequate resource back-up, he emphasized.  Troop-contributing countries must have fair opportunities to serve in leadership positions, both in the field and at Headquarters, and human rights must not be used as tools to serve hidden political objectives.

Nepal’s new Constitution contained a list of human rights measures, he said, noting that the country had abolished the death penalty and put legal and institutional measures in place for the realization of all human rights.  On migration, he said the welfare of migrant workers must have priority in the countries where they worked.  As the source country for more than 3 million migrant workers, Nepal called for concerted efforts at the national, regional and international levels to ensure their well-being.  International finance and trade must be responsive to the needs and concerns of least developed countries and landlocked developing countries, he said, adding that climate justice must be based on common but differentiated responsibilities, with special attention to climate-vulnerable countries, particularly mountainous countries.  The success of Nepal’s peace process could be a good example for countries transitioning from conflict to peace, he said, adding that his country’s constitution guaranteed equal opportunity and protection for every citizen.  Women were guaranteed at least one-third representation in Parliament and 40 per cent in local government, he added.

JEAN-CLAUDE GAKOSSO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Congo, said the 2030 Agenda had heralded a new era of sustainable development.  Recalling that his country had allocated many resources on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, he said it would now turn its attention to the implementation of the new agenda.  However, it would require the international community’s support, including through mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund.  Pledging to ensure that each Congolese citizen lived in dignity and that no one was left behind, he underscored the significance of the recent Group of 20 decision to support industrialization in developing countries, especially in Africa.  The continent would not be able to develop sustainably without first industrializing and gaining better access to energy.  Recalling that, five years ago, the world had welcomed the birth of its newest nation, he said it was regrettable that South Sudan had rapidly plunged into a fratricidal conflict.  All parties to that conflict must demonstrate political will and commit in good faith to implementing the 2015 peace agreement.  Calling for the deployment of a regional stability force under a Security Council mandate, he said the time had come to put an end to the bloodbath in South Sudan, which imperilled global security.

Noting that the Central African Republic had, not long ago, been caught up in another serious crisis, he said that country had been able to successfully implement a political transition with the help of its international and regional partners.  Deploring the tragic events that had rocked Kinshasa almost a week ago, he invited the Democratic Republic of the Congo to seek peaceful solutions through an inclusive dialogue.  Turning to Gabon, where a post-electoral crisis had led to violence, he said the country should aim to emerge reconciled from that painful ordeal.  In his own country, he cited a number of recent institutional developments following last year’s referendum.  Those had led to the adoption of a Constitution that strengthened the principle of the separation of powers, abolished capital punishment, provided for gender equality, recognized the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples and provided a blueprint for participatory democracy.

ERLAN ABDYLDAYEV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, celebrated the conclusion of his country’s October 2015 parliamentary elections, and thanked the Secretary-General for his support during that process.  He called upon the United Nations and partner organizations to support the country’s upcoming elections in 2017.  He expressed his support for the Sustainable Development Goals, which included a number of priorities for his country, including poverty reduction, high-quality education, health care, economic growth and environmental protection.  On that note, he announced that he had signed the Paris Agreement outside the General Assembly hall the preceding day.  Enumerating the many environmental stresses Kyrgyzstan faced, he called for international support to help his country adapt to climate change.  Particularly concerning was the rapid rate of glacial melting, shrinking biodiversity and uranium mining sites, which despite having been addressed under General Assembly resolution 68/218, now required a high-level international meeting.

Turning to issues of security and stability, he expressed concern about tensions in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Ukraine, and noted that terrorism, extremism and religious intolerance afflicted his country like so many others.  Observing that the “confrontational position of some countries” was hindering the international community’s ability to tackle those threats, he called for world Powers to set aside their disputes and undertake joint efforts to counter threats to international security.  There needed to be a General Assembly resolution on inter-religious dialogue and cooperation for peace.  Concerned about his country’s electricity shortage, he called for Central Asia to reach a common understanding on the rational use of energy resources and an expeditious resolution of border disputes.  He added his voice to others calling for Security Council reform, and welcomed recent procedural changes in the election of the Secretary-General.  Finally, he expressed his concern about the involvement of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in the case of Azimjan Askarov, who had been convicted by the Kyrgyz Supreme Court.  Such interventions were liable to destabilize his country.

EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, said the present General Assembly session was taking place following a disputed presidential election in his country.  Yesterday, the Constitutional Court had reaffirmed the victory of Ali Bongo Ondimba as President and Head of State.  Recalling that the Government had institutionalized the use of biometric data to draw up its voters lists, and that it had welcomed over 1,200 observers and 200 foreign journalists to ensure the election was fair and democratic, he said there had nevertheless been several violent incidents and loss of life associated with the election.  President Ondimba had called for an inclusive dialogue as well as reconciliation and national unity, which were now among the country’s main goals.  Citing a number of recent international successes, including the thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba and the signing of the Paris Agreement, he said the latter now required implementation.  Gabon had begun its ratification procedure, and it looked forward to the next Conference of States Parties.

In that regard, he stressed that a major challenge that remained to be addressed was that of ensuring energy across Africa.  Noting that two thirds of Africans still lacked access to energy, he said environmental issues were at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and required sustained enthusiasm as well as concrete action.  Calling for the greater mobilization of human, financial resources and more direct involvement of the private sector, he stressed that “we must redouble our creativity” and explore new pathways of development.  For its part, Gabon had established a new Government agency to design and implement a sectoral approach to the environment, as well as other key priority issues.  It also participated actively in the fight against terrorism.  Emphasizing that more efforts were needed to cut off financing to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he said addressing the terrorist threat also meant resolving the crises in Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

FRANCINE BARON, Minister for Foreign Affairs and CARICOM Affairs of Dominica, said that realizing the Sustainable Development Goals was not about ticking boxes, but about making a real difference.  The international community must sharpen its focus on the impact of climate change on small island developing States.  They had seen agricultural production dramatically reduced, leading to prolonged drought and soil erosion.  The economic impact of the environmental damage was dire, and “more urgent and wide-ranging action is needed in fighting against climate change to ensure our very survival”.  Dominica had been painfully reminded of that in 2015, when Tropical Storm Erika had killed 30 of its citizens, she recalled.

That event had caused economic damage estimated at $483 million, the equivalent of 90 per cent of national GDP, she recalled.  Dominica had since made great strides in building more climate-resilient and adaptive infrastructure in a process facilitated by the support of bilateral and multilateral partners, she said.  Still, the country continued to suffer the “disproportionate burdens and impacts of climate change”, which hampered its efforts to develop in a sustainable manner, she said, adding that resources intended for sustainable development programmes had instead been shifted to post-disaster rehabilitation efforts.  Dominica, therefore, continued to call for the establishment of an international natural disaster risk fund, she said, describing the Caribbean Risk Fund and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Disaster Recovery Facilities as “good starting points”.

PERFECTO R. YASAY, JR., Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said that after his country’s hard-fought and hard-won independence, it zealously valued and guarded its rights and liberties through democracy and a system of checks and balances.  Five months ago, the people had elected new President Rodrigo Roa Duterte with an unprecedented and resounding electoral mandate.  For far too long, the Philippines had been unable to fully advance due to corruption, worsening crime, and the prevalence of illegal drugs, and corruption had become the breeding ground for the illegal drug trade.  The Government was determined to eradicate illicit drugs and their manufacture, distribution and use.  The rule of law and strict adherence to due process fully governed the campaign against corruption and criminality.  Noting that the Government’s actions had grabbed national and international attention for all the wrong reasons, he urged everyone “to allow us to deal with our domestic challenges in order to achieve our national goals, without undue interference”.  Extrajudicial killings had no place in Philippine society, and the Government did not and would never empower its law enforcement agents to shoot-to-kill any individual suspected of drug crimes, though police had the right to defend themselves when their lives were threatened.

The goal of the Government was to “leave no one behind” in its development strides, he said.  The Philippines continued to enhance the delivery and quality of social services, including in health, education, food, water and housing.  As one of the most disaster-prone and vulnerable countries to the adverse effects of climate change, the Philippines reiterated its call for climate justice and the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities in the implementation of obligations under the Paris Agreement.  The country remained committed to the rule of law and to peace, including the recent decision on the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague with regard to the disputes in the South China Sea.  Noting the final and binding nature of the Arbitral Award, the Philippines reaffirmed its commitment to pursuing peaceful resolution to regional disputes.

SHEIKH ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, said that several countries in the region were facing multiple crises and conflicts ignited after 2011.  A number of Arab countries had descended into internal fighting and the plight of the Palestinian people continued under Israeli occupation without a just solution on the horizon.  Countering terrorist groups was a right and duty of all; however, resorting to “blindly placed laws”, such as the United States Congress’ Justice against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, ignoring the effective roles played by a number of nations, would lead to further arbitrary policies and destabilize relationships between allies.  He went on to observe that Iran, with expansionist regional policies and interference in its neighbours’ internal affairs, had played the greatest role in causing regional tension and instability.  Despite the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1, he said, that country had continued its efforts to undermine regional security through aggressive rhetoric and by developing its ballistic missile programme.

With regards to Libya, he said that his country welcomed the Skhirat Agreement and the formation of the Government of National Accord.  On Syria, the United Arab Emirates saw no possibility of resolving the crisis through military force.  “Bandaging the wounds” by repeating charitable humanitarian efforts or holding international conferences were no substitutes for resolving such crises.  His country had built mechanisms to protect youth by establishing the Hedayah Centre to combat extremism and the Sawab Centre with the United States.  It had also established the Muslim Council of Elders and the Forum for the Promotion of Peace in Muslim Communities to demonstrate the true face of Islam.  However, regional crises should not distract from his country’s core issue — its sovereignty over three islands, Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, occupied by Iran against the provisions of international law and the Charter.  The United Arab Emirates had called on Iran to return the islands, particularly through international justice or arbitration, and would continue to do so.  He affirmed that his country would never give up its right over those islands.

IBRAHIM AHMED ABD AL-AZIZ GHANDOUR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sudan, stressed the need to reform the United Nations and its various structures.  He expressed hope that countries calling for such reform would be heeded to ensure the Organization became a platform for implementing principles of international legality and justice.  He also emphasized that the fight against impunity through international mechanisms should be depoliticized.  The International Criminal Court, rather than dispensing justice, hampered efforts to achieve peace.  Many African States were threatening to withdraw from the Court due to its politicization.

His country would knock on every door in pursuing peace, stressing that dialogue was the only means of strengthening the social fabric, he said.  Darfur had now become a peaceful and secure region, with the United Nations as a witness.  His Government reiterated its call for the withdrawal of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  Its considerable forces could be better employed elsewhere.  He also called for the removal of sanctions against his country and the writing off of its billions of dollars in foreign debt, which was hampering Sudan’s economic capabilities and ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

PRAK SOKHONN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cambodia, noted that despite progress made in the areas of development and technology, there had been challenges in areas of peace and security.  The latter would need to be addressed with actions, not words alone.  New tensions were reason for great concern as well, especially in the Middle East.  That required a more effective international response, including a more equitable representation of countries among the members of the Security Council.  He stated his intention to work with all constructively to achieve lasting peace.  The root causes of terrorism, most notably inequality and discrimination, had to be addressed.  There must be peaceful coexistence among religions and countries, and radicalization had to be addressed.

He urged that equality must also be pursued in international trade and economic development.  The Paris Agreement must be implemented without delay to avoid serious consequences.  With regard to the Sustainable Development Goals, he noted the responsibility of the developed countries to work in close partnership with developing States.  He recounted the terror his own country had to experience, which depleted all its resources.  Only Viet Nam responded during that dark period and accepted displaced persons.  That past continued to weigh upon citizens and society as a whole.  Despite the challenges, progress has been made in Cambodia in terms of development and reconciliation.  His State had gained expertise in demining and supported other countries in the removal of such devices.  Concluding, he said that mass terror and violence had to be prevented.

MAXINE PAMELA OMETA MCCLEAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, said it was necessary to act now to make the vision of Agenda 2030 a reality, and that this was particularly true for the small island developing States.  She was proud to have participated in the launch, in Barbados, of the Caribbean Human Development Report 2016, and noted the three central issues it highlighted for low-lying coastal Caribbean States:  vulnerability, resilience and sustainability.  The existential threat which climate changed posed for island States was well-documented.  The Prime Minister of Barbados had participated in the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement in April, and deposited the instrument of ratification on the same occasion.  Barbados had developed a National Climate Change Policy Framework, and recognized the potential of sustainable ocean exploitation as an important component of its future development.

In 50 years since its independence, Barbados had achieved a significant level of human development, she said, but the country was concerned that international development agencies were penalizing it for its progress, while ignoring its obvious vulnerabilities.  Another obstacle was “the persistent and unwarranted attacks” on the country’s international financial services sector.  Barbados welcomed the progress towards the normalization of bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States of America, and looked forward to the dismantling of the final vestiges of the long-standing embargo.

ALAIN AIMÉ NYAMITWE, Minister for External Affairs of Burundi, acknowledged the importance of the Inter-Burundi Dialogue, but said it should not replace or undermine the country’s Constitution.  His Government believed that peaceful political stakeholders should discuss the country’s future but must adhere to its policies.  In reacting to recent conflict in the country, citizens of Burundi had called for several important reforms, which could not be ignored, and the Government had maintained an unwavering commitment to human rights.  The Government had reiterated its commitment to ensure the safety of all citizens, irrespective of ethnicity.  It was imperative that any human rights assessment of the country be executed with caution, as falsified information and reports on social media had all been used to place the country under a bad light.  His Government rejected any politicized or falsified reports on human rights in the country and would produce a comprehensive counter-report.

Turning to global security, he said terrorism was now affecting all regions of the world.  Some progress had been made to combat it, but international efforts or a common strategy had not yet yielded the desired results.  His Government condemned terrorism and believed the fight against it must continue with greater determination.  Since 2007, Burundi had been contributing troops to fight terrorism, based on an ironclad commitment against the scourge and in support of global peace.  Burundi was determined to help its brothers and sisters recover their dignity and freedom.  He called on the United Nations to fill in the financial gap left by a reduction in the European Union budget for AMISOM.

ABDUSALAM HADLIYEH OMER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Somalia, noted that after almost two decades of instability, his country had permanently turned the corner towards prosperity.  The Government had made tangible progress on elections, State formation, security and economic development.  Somalia was also winning the war against terrorism at home and contributing to creating a safer world by cooperating with international partners.  With the support of its national security services and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Al-Shabaab had been militarily defeated.  Today, that group controlled less than 10 per cent of the country’s territory.  In recent months, many of its key leaders had been killed while others had defected, and it had turned to small-team asymmetric warfare tactics to conduct terror attacks against “soft targets” in Somalia and its neighbours.

He continued to say that his country was grateful to nations which had contributed troops to the AMISOM, as well as to international partners.  But the only way to achieve long-term stability and development was to have trained, equipped and funded Somali national security forces, he said, expressing hope that the aim could be achieved ahead of the Mission drawdown in 2018.  The President had recently launched the National Strategy and Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, which would provide a holistic framework for addressing security threats.  In addition, the Government was determined to ensure a smooth and inclusive electoral process for a peaceful democratic transition in November, championing a 13 per cent quota for women in Parliament.  Through diverse partnerships, it was also working on successfully returning Somali refugees home from Kenya voluntarily and with dignity so they could actively participate in their nation’s rebuilding efforts.

MOHAMED ASIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said that the adoption of the 2030 Agenda provided a rare opportunity for the whole world to come together in a moment of collective agreement.  The Maldives was focused on investing in health and education.  The country sought to deliver easily accessible health care, a feat that was challenging for a population of 338,000 dispersed over 188 islands.  “Investing in our people will put us on the right path, and no investment has higher returns than when we invest in women and girls,” he said.  As a small island developing State, the Maldives was susceptible to economic, environmental and institutional shocks.  It was necessary to re-evaluate development status beyond simply GDP per capita, a metric which disadvantaged smaller countries with small populations.  Vulnerability needed to be a factor in those assessments.  “Evaluate our progress relatively, not against inapt benchmarks,” he said.

Climate change was an existential threat to the Maldives, he said, and his country had long advocated urgent action on that issue.  As a lone voice, it could not go far, but today, together with 43 members of the Alliance of Small Island States, it could accomplish much more.  The Maldives was among the first to ratify the Paris Agreement.  His nation was also concerned about the sustainable use of the oceans, an issue that needed a collective response.  On Syria, he said that a military solution was never the answer.  “Fences and wires don’t stop violence […] compassion and tolerance do,” he said.  Condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, he warned against the rising tide of hatred, Islamophobia and xenophobia in the name of security, which could only lead to more violence.

LYONPO DAMCHO DORJI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bhutan, noted with concern the occurrence of recent acts of terrorism, and protracted and new conflicts which had resulted in massive and unprecedented levels of displacement.  To achieve sustainable peace, much remained to be done with regard to the arms trade.  He went on to address other major global challenges the international community had to address, including poverty, child mortality, gender equality, inequality and climate change.  The latter had the most serious impact on the most vulnerable countries, such as small island States and least developed countries.

He stated that Bhutan aligned the Sustainable Development Goals with national priorities.  He also noted that the Goals were consistent with the national framework of Gross National Happiness.  With regard to successful implementation, he stressed the importance of the support of Bhutan’s development partners.  Partnerships and a strengthened multilateral system were crucial for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

ELVIN NIMROD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Grenada, expressed the commitment of his country to the full and inclusive implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.  Grenada was particularly committed to conserve and promote the sustainable use of the oceans and all marine resources.  He stressed the importance of securing adequate resources to protect marine resources, and he shared an innovative approach in that field.  During Blue Week 2016, a “shark tank” approach was used to allow local and international ocean entrepreneurs to pitch project ideas for funding.  According to research carried out by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Wildlife Fund, the ocean economy has an estimated $24 trillion asset value.  Furthermore, he urged small island, Caribbean and Pacific States to be lead advocates on the issue of oceans and climate change.  On climate change, he urged leaders to ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of 2016, noting that small island and least developed States would require ongoing technical assistance and capacity-building in the areas of climate change, renewable energy and sustainable development.

Regarding peace and security, he reiterated that the sovereignty of countries had to be respected, and he did not condone the embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States.  He also expressed his support for a two-State settlement for Israel and Palestine and the self-determination and protection of the Palestinian people.  At home, Grenada continued to strengthen democratic values and practices, including through a reform of the Constitution.

ISSELKOU OULD AHMED IZID BIH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mauritania, said his country played a crucial role in regional peace and security.  Against the backdrop of a complex regional situation, it had successfully fought against several terrorist organizations.  It had beefed up security and defence without undermining individual freedoms.  Mauritania believed that security and development were two sides of the same coin, he said, noting the country’s efforts in such areas as tackling corruption and providing safe drinking water in shanty towns.

Mauritania adhered to a policy of neutrality with regard to conflicts in its region, he said, noting its support for United Nations efforts to resolve the conflict in Western Sahara and its contribution to United Nations peacekeeping missions in Côte d’Ivoire and Central African Republic.  He emphasized the right of Palestinians to have their own State with East Jerusalem as its capital, adding that ongoing violations of Palestinians’ rights by Israel only fanned the flames of terrorism and violent extremism worldwide.  He urged Yemen, Libya and Syria to “choose the path of wisdom” and recognize it was not possible to end conflict militarily.  On climate change, he drew attention to Mauritania’s efforts to limit desertification and hoped that all parties to the Paris Agreement would respect their commitments.

Right of Reply

In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Turkey expressed dismay over certain contents of the Syrian regime’s statement, which had contained baseless accusations at Turkey.  She was confident that those responsible for the destruction of Syria would be held responsible for their crimes.  Until then, her country would stand behind the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.

Also exercising the right of reply, the representative of Indonesia spoke in response to statements made by the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and echoed by others regarding Papua, a province of Indonesia.  She rejected the insinuating statements they had made, which reflected an unfortunate lack of understanding of history and progressive developments in Indonesia, including in the provinces of Papua and West Papua.  Their politically motivated statements were designed to support separatist groups which had engaged in inciting public disorder and armed attacks on civilians and military personnel.  It was regrettable and dangerous of States to use the United Nations and the Assembly to advance their domestic agenda and divert attention from problems at home.  Indonesia’s commitment to protecting human rights was unquestionable.  It was a founding member of the Human Rights Council and had initiated the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Commission on Human Rights.  It had a full-fledged functioning democracy, coupled with the protection of human rights at all levels.  Thus, it was impossible for any human rights allegations to go unnoticed and unscrutinized.  Domestic mechanisms were in place at the provincial levels in Papua and West Papua, and Indonesia would give focus to the development of those provinces and to the best interests of all.

The representative of China, speaking in exercise of the right of reply and in response to the Philippines, said his country had already made statements on its position on the Arbitral Tribunal findings.  Its awards were null and void and had no binding force.  Territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea should not be affected by those awards, and China would never accept any claim or action based on them.  It would continue to abide by international law as enshrined in the Charter including with respect to State sovereignty and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

In response, the representative of the Philippines said its position had been exhaustively discussed at the 12 July arbitration.  Both his country and China were State parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and thus the awards should be final and complied with by all parties.  His country had allowed China to move forward on dispute resolution and preliminary talks were ongoing.  The award of the Arbitral Tribunal should be a starting point.  The award was now a significant part of jurisprudence, and could not be ignored in terms of the maritime entitlements of both countries together with their respective rights and obligations.  The Tribunal did have jurisdiction over the dispute.  In October 2015, it had found that its jurisdiction applied to China even if that country chose not to participate in proceedings.  On 12 July, it had rendered an award on the merits.  Some of its points included finding that China’s claims to historic maritime rights ran contrary to the Convention and exceeded geographic limits.  Under the convention ruling, none of the islands could sustain human habitation and accordingly should have no economic zone or continental shelf; they were all rocks.  The Tribunal had also found that China’s artificial island building had caused devastating and long-lasting damage on the marine environment and that it had not cooperated with other States bordering the South China Sea.

The representative of China said unilateral arbitration was aimed not at resolving the dispute or maintaining peace and stability, but at denying Chinese territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.  The Tribunal’s conduct contravened the practice of international arbitration.  Currently, thanks to China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, the situation in the South China Sea was progressing in a positive direction.

In response, the representative of the Philippines said China’s actions were the cause of destabilization in the South China Sea, and not the arbitration procedures initiated by the Philippines.  Arbitration had been an attempt by the Philippines to resolve the issue on an equal footing.  He said his country was ready to talk with China on the basis of the arbitration award.  China’s non-acceptance of the arbitration decision would have grave consequences for international law and the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

For information media. Not an official record.