General Debate Opens with World Leaders Calling for Concerted Action on Global Challenges
In a world of increasingly fragmented societies and deepening political divides, a greater focus on people — and bolstered trust between them — was critical to tackling the threats posed by nuclear weapons, forced migration and other urgent challenges, stressed Secretary-General António Guterres as he opened the General Assembly’s seventy-second high-level debate today.
“We are a world in pieces,” Mr. Guterres said in opening remarks. Insecurity was rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and the climate changing. Meanwhile, trust within and among countries was being driven down “by those who demonize and divide”. Emphasizing that trust could be restored if people worked together, he listed several threats facing the global community, first among which was the present nuclear peril.
Noting that global anxieties about nuclear weapons were at their highest since the cold war, he stressed that “the fear is not abstract — millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”. Condemning the tests unequivocally, he called upon that country and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions, and on the organ itself to maintain unity on the matter. “The solution must be political,” he said, adding: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.”
Outlining additional challenges, from rising sea levels and escalating tensions in Myanmar to the continued threat of terrorism, he said that the phenomenon of human mobility — “which I do not perceive as a threat, even if some do” — had the potential to bring the world together. While every country had the right to protect its own borders, such actions must protect the rights of people on the move. With a truly global sharing of responsibility, the numbers could be managed, he stressed.
Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, struck a similar tone, noting that some 65 million people around the world were being forced to leave their homes. Calling for a stronger focus on people, he said one of the biggest tests for the Assembly would be the adoption of the first global compact for migration. “Let me be frank here — this will be a difficult process,” he warned. The issue of migration was highly divisive, yet, “we cannot turn this into an exercise of bureaucracy”. The world could not be left with an agreement that only worked on paper.
International terrorism, a problem that could not be solved with guns or barriers, was another challenge that demanded a focus on people, he said. The only way to address the challenges posed by migration and terrorism was to focus on people rather than rigidly sticking to individual positions. Viable global frameworks were needed, implemented by and for people, in real time. “We cannot fail,” he stressed. A focus on people must also be felt in the humanitarian field, particularly amid violations of international humanitarian law.
Outlining his vision for the session, he said peace and prevention should be at the centre of the United Nations. Too much time and money were being spent reacting to conflicts, and not enough was being spent preventing them. Efforts must be recalibrated around peace and prevention. “That is the only way to ensure that the United Nations is doing the job for which it was created,” he said. Indeed, the twin “sustaining peace” resolutions adopted by the Assembly and the Council in 2016 should be at the top of the Organization’s tool-box, with the international community strengthening its responses to crises before they resulted in the outbreak or recurrence of conflict.
Throughout the day, 33 world leaders, spanning the globe from Uzbekistan and Egypt to Colombia and Gambia, held centre stage in the Assembly Hall, presenting their nation’s unique challenges and outlining their worldviews. Heads of State and Government pinned at the top of their lists of concerns nuclear conflict, climate change, mass displacement, and, above all, the need for global unity to address those pressing issues.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, sharing his country’s experience in dealing with the refugee crisis, said the cost of hosting 3 million Syrian refugees had exceeded $30 billion. Pledging to remain committed to providing them with shelter, food, clothing, health care and education, he urged Governments and international organizations to fulfil their aid pledges and do more to help, particularly the European Union, which had only sent €820 million out of the promised €3 billion. He also stressed addressing the growing crisis facing the Muslim community in the Rakhine region of Myanmar, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas were being subjected to “almost an ethnic cleansing” and forced to migrate, including to camps in Bangladesh that were not able to fulfil their basic needs. If that tragedy was not stopped, humanity would face another “dark stain”, he warned.
Many world leaders emphasized the importance of multilateralism in dealing with global challenges.
“The work of the United Nations has never been more important to the search for peace and the sustenance for global stability than it is today,” said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia. Noting that the Organization offered great hope to a troubled world, she stressed that “Liberians bear witness to this truth” and recalled her first address to the Assembly 11 years ago as Africa’s first democratically elected woman Head of State. “From a pariah State, Liberia has gradually regained the confidence of nations,” she said, adding that it could not have done so without the United Nations, especially the stabilization and security provided by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, President of Mali, highlighted how regional partners, supported by the international community, could be useful in tackling major concerns. He noted that security challenges had led to the establishment of the “Group of 5 for the Sahel” (Sahel G-5) — namely, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — a cluster of nations that had set up a joint force to fight against transnational organized crime, trafficking and related issues.
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda, said it was time to do away with divisions. Regarding the dangerous situation on the Korean Peninsula, he said he had only one question: “Who would lose if North Korea and South Korea, those kith and kin, were left alone to discuss their reunification?” A unified Korea would be a very strong nation, he emphasized, demanding to know why outside forces continued to be allowed to divide Korea. Africa, which had encountered experiences similar to those faced by the Korean Peninsula, still strived to prevent both foreign and local actors from dividing its peoples.
Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, echoed calls for stronger cooperation between countries while simultaneously urging world leaders to prioritize the needs of their own citizens. “As President of the United States, I will always put America first,” he said, adding that the world was safer when nations were strong, independent and free. While the United States did not expect diverse countries to share its values, they must respect the rights of their own peoples and those of every other sovereign nation, he emphasized.
Noting that no State had shown more contempt for those rights than the depraved regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said that that country’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles now threatened the entire world. If the United States was forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”, he warned, adding that “hopefully this will not be necessary”. It was also “far past time” to address the threat posed by the Government of Iran, he said, adding its oil profits should be used to improve lives rather than fund Hizbullah and other terrorist groups.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, pointing out that Iran had vowed to destroy his country, emphasized that if nothing changed, the current deal with Iran would follow the same course as that with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Iran nuclear deal must be changed or cancelled, he said, stressing that that country should be penalized for all violations and its aggression in the region rolled back. Indeed, an “Iranian curtain” was descending across the Middle East, spreading a swath of terror and pledging to extinguish the light of Israel.
Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka, reported on positive developments in his country, noting that he had transferred some executive powers to his country’s Parliament. A leader transferring such an excess of power to another organ set an example for the world. “We want to create a country with discipline, a country with higher morals.” He commended the work of the United Nations, emphasizing its role in ensuring the independence and sovereignty of his country. Sri Lanka wanted to create peace and unity and to promote brotherhood among its people. “Ours is a slow and steady pace.”
“We know it can be done,” said Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia, referencing her country’s success story in protecting society’s weakest while growing its economy. Recalling how Estonia’s people were dispersed around the world during the Second World War, she said that that “bitter lesson” had taught it the importance of empathy towards refugees fleeing the atrocities of war and destruction. In today’s world, however, tackling migration also meant tackling climate change, which had become the defining issue of modern times.
Also speaking were the Heads of State and Government of Brazil, Guinea, Switzerland, Slovakia, Nigeria, Czech Republic, France, Colombia, Tajikistan, Zambia, Lithuania, Qatar, Monaco, Poland, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Gambia, Bolivia and Honduras, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Austria and Mauritania.
The representative of Iran spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 September, to continue its general debate.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, outlined several grave challenges facing humanity, emphasizing that “our world is in trouble; people are hurting and angry.” Insecurity was rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and the climate changing. While the global economy was becoming more integrated, the sense of global community was disintegrating, with societies fragmented and political discourse polarized. “Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide,” he stressed. “We are a world in pieces.”
Emphasizing that trust could be restored if people worked together, he cited several threats that stood in the way. First among them was the present nuclear peril, he said, noting that global anxieties about nuclear weapons were at their highest since the cold war. “The fear is not abstract — millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” he said. Condemning those tests unequivocally, he called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions, and on the Council itself to maintain unity on the matter. “The solution must be political,” he said. “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.”
The threat of terrorism was also taking a toll, he said, destroying societies, destabilizing regions and diverting energy from more productive pursuits. Calling for intensified international efforts to disrupt terrorism networks, reclaim territory and prevent attacks, he announced his intention to convene the first-ever gathering of heads of counter-terrorism agencies in 2018, aimed at forging a new International Counter-Terrorism Partnership. More must be done to address the roots of radicalization, including real and perceived injustices and high levels of unemployment and grievance among young people. Political, religious and community leaders had a duty to stand up against hatred and serve as models of tolerance.
Further, he said unresolved conflicts and systemic violations of international humanitarian law — including the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State which had forced more than 400,000 people to flee — posed additional global threats, he said, calling on the Myanmar authorities to end their military operations and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status had been left unresolved for far too long. From Syria to Yemen, from South Sudan to the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere, only political solutions could bring peace. Terrorism would only be eradicated if such conflicts were resolved.
Citing climate change as another threat placing humanity’s hopes in jeopardy, he said millions of people and trillions of assets were at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions. The number of natural disasters had quadrupled since 1970. “It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions,” he stressed. “We know enough to act today; the science is unassailable.” Urging Governments to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change with even greater ambition, he cited evidence that economies could grow even as emissions were reduced. At the same time, the gains from expanding trade and technological advances had not been shared equally around the world, and gaping inequalities existed. Indeed, eight men held the same wealth as half of humanity, he said, emphasizing that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted in 2015 — provided a blueprint to change that course.
Describing additional threats, he said technology and innovation, which was at the heart of shared progress, had a “dark side” that must be confronted. Cybersecurity threats were escalating, and cyber war was now more able to disrupt relations between States, as well as the structures and systems of modern life. Meanwhile, human mobility — “which I do not perceive as a threat, even if some do” — could bring the world together if properly managed. While every country had the right to protect its own borders, such actions must protect the rights of people on the move. It was important to re-establish the integrity of the refugee protection regime and the simple decency of human compassion. With a truly global sharing of responsibility, the numbers could be managed.
Finally, he voiced his commitment to the goal of reforming the United Nations by building a development system to support States in bettering peoples’ lives, reinforcing the ability to safeguard peace, security and human rights, and embracing management practices that advanced those goals, rather than hindered them. “We are here to serve,” he said.
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said persistent conflict was an ugly reality of our world. Civilians — not soldiers — were paying the highest price, while schools and hospitals — not military barracks — were the targets of attacks. About 65 million people were being forced to leave their homes. Other challenges included poverty, growing inequalities, indiscriminate terrorist attacks and the worsening effects of climate change. “These are global challenges — every country is coping with at least one. But they are also individual in nature, touching on the lives of each person,” he underscored.
Outlining his vision for the session, he said peace and prevention should be at the centre of everything the United Nations did. Too much time and money were being spent reacting to conflicts, and not enough was being spent preventing them. Efforts must be recalibrated around peace and prevention. “That is the only way to ensure that the United Nations is doing the job for which it was created,” he said. Placing peace and prevention first was not about requesting more capacity from outside — what was missing were the conditions in which those tools could be used properly. The “sustaining peace” resolutions should be at the top of the tool-box, challenging the international community to strengthen its responses to crises before they resulted in the outbreak or recurrence of conflict. Prevention must become a larger part of the General Assembly’s work and an important component of both the ongoing review of United Nations peace operations, and the Assembly’s engagement with the Organization’s first Office of Counter-Terrorism. Prevention must also be better integrated into the Organization’s development and human rights work.
Next, he said, a stronger focus must be placed on people. The United Nations was not made for diplomats or dignitaries — it was made for people. One of the biggest tests for the Assembly would be the adoption of the first global compact for migration. “Let me be frank here — this will be a difficult process,” he warned. The issue of migration was highly divisive, yet, “we cannot turn this into an exercise of bureaucracy”. The world could not be left with an agreement that only worked on paper. International terrorism, a problem that could not be solved with guns or barriers, was another challenge that demanded a focus on people. Indeed, the only way to address the challenges posed by migration and terrorism was to focus on people, rather than rigidly sticking to individual positions. Viable global frameworks were needed, implemented by and for people, in real time. “We cannot fail,” he stressed. A focus on people must also be felt in the humanitarian field, particularly amid the violations of international humanitarian law which had become too common.
Through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, a promise was made to improve the lives of all people, while securing the planet’s future. However, those goals could not be met without adequate financing. “We cannot sit and wait patiently for trillions of dollars to materialize,” he said. “We must go out and search for them.” In such work, human rights were crucial, as neither peace nor development could take hold without them. Women’s leadership and participation should be a priority in settings of both conflict and peace. United Nations reform, another priority, required an open, inclusive dialogue among Member States. He encouraged the Organization should open its doors wider and strengthen its engagement with a wide variety of stakeholders, including regional and subregional organizations, civil society and the private sector. Changing how the United Nations operated should start in New York to ensure real dialogue rather than a succession of monologues. “We can look beyond our individual agendas and positions, and see the bigger picture of why the United Nations is here,” he said.
MICHEL TEMER, President of Brazil, said that while the aspirations of the United Nations founders had not been entirely fulfilled, the Organization had stood for hope and the possibility of a more just world for more than 70 years. It stood for a world where no one faced discrimination, oppression or extreme poverty; a world where consumption patterns were more in line with present and future generations. This time in history, marked by so much uncertainty and instability, required more diplomacy, negotiation and multilateralism; not less. It was imperative to reform the United Nations, and particularly to expand the Security Council, aligning it with twenty-first-century realities. He rejected exacerbated forms of nationalism and protectionism as a “way out” from economic difficulties.
He said Brazil’s commitment to sustainable development was at the top of its public actions, both on the national and international levels. The country was dedicated to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and advocating the Paris Agreement. “We must act now,” he emphasized. Clean and renewable energy in Brazil accounted for more than 40 per cent of its energy mix, and the country also served as a leader in hydropower and bioenergy. He expressed pride that Brazil had the largest tropical forest coverage on the planet, stressing that deforestation was also of great concern. Brazil was committed to an open and rules-based international trade system, ultimately centred on the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its dispute settlement mechanisms.
Recalling that Brazil had taken a lead role in drafting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he emphasized the importance of banning nuclear technology for non-peaceful purposes. There were lingering issues of real concern on the peace and security agenda, notably the recent nuclear tests on the Korean Peninsula, which constituted a threat to all. On the Middle East, he expressed concern that talks between Israel and Palestine had come to a halt, while on Syria, he said the recent de-escalation of violence had not prevented the conflict from continuing with dramatic humanitarian consequences.
A clear recognition of the connection between peace and development was required, he said, stressing that repeated episodes of cowardly violence and terrorism should not allow for the weakening of tolerance and inclusion. Transnational crime, including the trafficking of people, drugs and money, undermined the security and peace of mind of families. Human rights violations were a recurring fact, including those that compromised civil, political, economic and social rights. Stressing that people must be allowed to live in dignity according to their own principles and choices, he rejected racism, xenophobia and all forms of intolerance. Brazil had one of the world’s most advanced laws on refugees and had recently updated its migration law, anchored on the principles of humanitarian assistance.
Indeed, Brazil was experiencing a period of decisive and sweeping changes following its unprecedented economic crisis, he said. Since then, the Government had worked to restore fiscal balance and economic credibility, having learned the importance of applying the rule that, without fiscal responsibility, social responsibility was nothing but empty rhetoric. Brazil was more open to the world, an attitude it brought to the United Nations and all other forums in which it participated, working towards a more prosperous and democratic South America, while also seeking greater cooperation and partnership for development in Africa. In Europe, Brazil was working to boost trade and investment flows, and in Asia, the country had expanded relations with both traditional and new partners.
DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States, said “we live in a time of extraordinary opportunity” with major breakthroughs in technology, medicine and other important areas. However, each day also brought growing dangers, including from terrorists and extremists. Noting that some rogue regimes “represented in this body” supported terrorists, he said such Powers sought to collapse States. Meanwhile, the trafficking of weapons and people, forced migration and new forms of technological aggression also threatened the world’s citizens, he said. It was up to the international community to decide whether it would “lift the world up”, or let it fall into greater peril. Recalling that the United Nations was founded in the aftermath of two world wars to help shape a better future, he said the United States had developed the Marshall Plan to help restore Europe, guided by the pillars of sovereignty, security and prosperity. The world was safer when States were strong, independent and free, he said, and the success of the United Nations depended on the independent strength of its Member States. While the United States did not expect diverse countries to share its values, they must respect the rights of their own peoples and those of every other sovereign nation, he emphasized. “This is the foundation for cooperation and success.”
Noting that the United States Constitution and its first three words — “We the people” — had provided inspiration to countries around the world, he said that he had not been elected to take power, but rather to give power to the American people, including in the field of foreign affairs. “As President of the United States, I will always put America first,” just as other leaders should always put their own countries first, he said, adding that, meanwhile, all countries must work in harmony. While the United States would continue to be a great friend, it would no longer enter into deals from which it received nothing in return, he cautioned, adding: “It is in everyone’s interest to seek a future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous and secure.” In emerging from the Second World War, the United States and its allies had not sought to impose their will on others, but instead, had worked to build institutions such as the United Nations. “We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife,” he declared. The world must have enough strength and pride to confront today’s dangers, including rejecting threats to sovereignty, from Ukraine to the South China Sea, he said, noting that a small group of rogue nations respected neither the rights of other nations nor those of their own people.
None had shown more contempt for those rights than the depraved regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which was not only responsible for the deprivation of its own people, but for their continued imprisonment, torture and killing. It was also responsible for the death of an American student and the kidnapping of a 13-year-old Japanese girl. Its reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles now threatened the entire world, he said, adding that it was an outrage that any country would continue to trade with such a regime. If the United States was forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”, he warned, adding that “hopefully this will not be necessary”. Thanking all Member States that had voted in favour of Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on that country, he said there was more to do to isolate the Kim Jong‑un regime. It was also “far past time” to address the threat posed by the Government of Iran, he said, adding its own people were its longest-suffering victims. Rather than using its oil profits to improve lives, Iran used them to fund Hizbullah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbours, support the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and finance Yemen’s civil war.
“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities,” he said, underlining also that the United States would not abide by an agreement that provided cover for the eventual establishment of a nuclear weapons programme. The Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action was “an embarrassment to the United States”. Recalling recent meetings with Saudi Arabia, he said there was agreement on the need to “stop radical Islamic terrorism”, and called on Governments to end their support for terrorist groups and hold those who had done so responsible. The United States sought a de-escalation in Syria, he said, noting that the actions of the “criminal” Assad regime — including its use of chemical weapons — had shocked the world. It was for those reasons that the United States had carried out an attack on a Syrian airbase. Thanking Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for hosting Syrian refugees, he described the United States as a compassionate nation seeking an approach to resettlement that would support refugees and enable their eventual return home. Nevertheless, uncontrolled migration was deeply unfair to both the sending and receiving countries, he said, pointing out that his country continued to lead the way in providing humanitarian assistance to many countries.
Voicing support for reform of the United Nations, he said the Organization had failed to focus on results, while some States had “hijacked” its systems. It was a massive source of embarrassment for the United Nations that countries with egregious human rights records sat on the Human Rights Council. Meanwhile, the United States paid 22 per cent of its budget — an investment that “could easily be well worth it” if the Organization accomplished all its stated goals. He noted that the United States stood against the corrupt, destabilizing regime in Cuba, he said, emphasizing that it would not lift its sanctions on that country until it carried out reforms. The United States had also imposed sanctions on the regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, a socialist dictatorship that imposed suffering on its people. The problem in that country was not that socialism had been implemented poorly, but that it had been carried out faithfully, he said, noting that, wherever true socialism or communism had been adopted, it had delivered devastation and failure. “If this Organization is to have any hope of success for confronting the challenges before us, it will depend […] on the independent strength of its members.” The true question for the United Nations was whether its Member States were “still patriots” and loved their nations enough to protect their sovereignty and take ownership of their own respective futures.
ALPHA CONDÉ, President of Guinea, said that Africa had awoken and was prepared to rise up to fight for sustainable development, justice and good governance. Today more than ever, Africa was determined to take its destiny into its own hands and be the main stakeholder in its development, while also taking a leading role in managing international affairs. It would not be an easy task, but Africa had the potential and assets to take its place as one of the greatest continents on the world stage. The interdependence of the challenges facing humanity required a paradigm shift in perceptions and actions concerning Africa. The continent’s priorities must be tackled with pragmatism, as destinies were no longer fragmented in the world. The massive flow of refugees, large-scale migration and natural disasters were a sad illustration of that reality. The new approach much put greater emphasis on human beings. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 on the regional level were a significant step forward in the fight against poverty, if all commitments were kept.
Africa had been the most dynamic continent over the last decade, and forecasts indicated that trend would continue, he said. Economies must be diversified to make them more resilient through investments in areas like agriculture, infrastructure, information and communications technology (ICT), and energy. Such a structural transformation would depend on access to energy, although economic integration would require the effective implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area. The African Union had sought a lasting solution to the numerous challenges confronting young people to make that part of society the real driving force for development. He urged the international community to support an African initiative that sought to recruit, train and deploy 2 million health-care workers across the continent.
Africa had decided to take responsibility for itself and speak with one voice to find lasting solutions to its problems, he continued. The African Union could now speak with one voice on common problems, with a view towards reaffirming its economic autonomy, which would allow it to play a leading role on the international scene. The Union was determined to eradicate hot spots on the continent by promoting dialogue and finding African solutions. Africa must no longer be left on the side-lines of decisions affecting it. Turning to United Nations reform, he stressed that the Security Council no longer reflected the realities of the world, particularly given the dearth of African representation on that body. It was high time to fix that injustice, which had gone on too long. In that context, he called for the enlargement of the Security Council, underscoring that if it was not possible to abolish the veto entirely, the new Council members must have the same prerogatives and privileges as the current members.
The African Union promoted a regional approach to conflicts, which meant that partnership between that entity and the United Nations must be aimed at building regional capacity, given their understanding of the root causes of conflicts, he said. The African Union would spare no effort to fund 25 per cent of its peace support operations in Africa, as mandated by the Security Council. The Union was focused on prevention, mediation, promoting dialogue and finding peaceful political solutions, which was less costly than peacekeeping operations, which had questionable effectiveness.
On terrorism, the African Union considered that only increased cooperation, particularly on the exchange of information and intelligence, would enable it to deal with the scourge and cut off financing sources, he said. Additional efforts must be focused on the eradication of poverty, exclusion and radicalization. The Union reiterated its unfailing support to the people of Palestine and to their right to independence. It was also concerned by the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The twenty-first century would undoubtedly provide an opportunity for renewal on the African continent, and in that regard, African young people and women were prepared to write a new history for humanity.
DORIS LEUTHARD, President of Switzerland, said complex challenges, such as climate change, humanitarian disasters and migration, spanned geographical borders, and could only be solved through collective efforts. A strong multilateral system centered on a strong United Nations must be established. “We need a strong United Nations and the fact that we need to repeat this today should set the alarm bells ringing,” she stressed.
At the same time, it was important to recognize the milestones that Member States had achieved in addressing global challenges, she said, citing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2016 Paris Agreement as examples of how countries had come together to work towards common goals. The success of those efforts would depend on how well those instruments were implemented. She welcomed reforms outlined by the Secretary-General in the areas of peace and security, development and management, expressing particular support for the priority placed on prevention, as the price to pay for conflict in humanitarian, economic and financial terms was much higher than the costs of prevention activities.
It was essential to promote human rights and she invited States to support 13 June call demanding that human rights be placed at the heart of prevention efforts, stressing that mediation was another important means for preventing conflict. Citing the migration crisis in Europe as a challenge requiring cooperation, she stressed: “We need solutions based on solidarity between countries. All countries must do their part.” Turning to the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, she said Switzerland was committed to non-proliferation and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. “Only negotiations and a diplomatic process will make it possible to find a solution to the security problem posed by the nuclear crisis in the Korean Peninsula,” she added.
Trust was another important aspect, she said. To take effective preventive measures, it was important to have confidence and at the United Nations, the quality of the partnership established with the host country was crucial. Sexual exploitation and abuse had broken that bond of trust and she expressed support for the Secretary-General’s actions against all forms of such behaviour committed by United Nations personnel. On migration, notably in Europe, she advocated solutions based on solidarity among countries and stabilizing the political situation in Libya. She expressed hope that the Global Pact for Migration would address both the challenges and opportunities brought about by migration. All countries must do their part. Access to the Internet, the impact of digitization on sustainable development and cybersecurity must be addressed hand in hand, she said, also stressing the need for effective management at the United Nations, making reforms indispensable.
In an interconnected world, she said, dialogue was essential and must be conducted on large scale and include all relevant parties. Yet, political dialogue had proven insufficient on the issue of climate change. The Paris Agreement must be quickly implemented, she said, noting the importance of the private sector’s role in devising solutions. Indeed, scientific diplomacy allowed for making the correct decisions, and politicians must base their decisions on evidence-based policy, she said, convinced of need invest in effective multilateral system. “To each his own is not a viable alternative,” she asserted.
ANDREJ KISKA, President of Slovakia, said that egoism, ignorance and narrow‑minded national or personal interests were the greatest enemy to efforts to make a real difference in the world. The principles of peace and security were essential for the dignity of all people. World leaders, as members of the United Nations, must uphold such principles, enforce them and punish violators. Yet, far too many people were dying in senseless conflicts or suffering displacement due to violence. The enormous human tragedies, damage from armed conflicts and the refugee crisis depleted much-needed resources for social and economic development. How world leaders treated their people was important to international peace and security, he said, expressing alarm about the recent findings of the use of chemicals weapons on the Syrian people by the Assad regime and the atrocities in Rakka, in Mosul, and other places which demonstrated how little respect was paid to human lives.
Short-sighted interests intended to spread instability were undermining the collective efforts to secure peace and security, he said. The selfish pursuit and egoism of the so-called spheres of influence were crippling peaceful coexistence among nations, using such influence to cover violations of international order and justify disrespect for sovereignty. Similar consequences could be seen in European countries such as Ukraine, Georgia or the Republic of Moldova which had had their sovereignty undermined by an “aggressive neighbour”.
One of the worst threats to international peace and security in recent history, he continued, was the threat of nuclear weapons by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Such grave disrespect for human life could not be tolerated. He strongly called on the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to stop developing weapons of mass destruction, and he encouraged them to engage in dialogue to build peace on the Korean Peninsula. He called for collective resolve to stand up for the United Nations principles and said some countries had a special responsibility to do regionally or internationally. “There is no room for geopolitical games or economic gains at the expense of our common security,” he said, when millions of lives were at stake.
Turning to climate change, he said the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2016 to mitigate the consequences of human impact on the environment may become the present generation’s ultimate legacy and give future generations a chance to adapt and live safely in a changed environment. He reiterated the importance of keeping promises and delivering results as part of climate change efforts. “No money, no short-term economic interests could possibly compensate for the irreparable damage if we fail to act together and change our irresponsible behaviour,” he said, warning of more severe consequences. Slovakia understood the urgency for collective action and had pushed for the swift ratification of the Paris Agreement during its tenure as President of the European Union last year. “We will implement all necessary national measures to fulfil our obligations,” he said, stressing that the accord must be fully implemented.
He underlined that while striving for efficiency reforms, the core of the United Nations must be respected without exception, and emphasized that to succeed in addressing today’s pressing issues, responsible leaders must forego national egoism and ignorance. He closed by stating, “to stand true to the principles of the UN Charter, to be honest with each other by keeping the promises we give and to deliver results, in words and in deeds. Because there is no more noble task than for us than to serve our people for them to live in peace, in dignity and in prosperity.”
MUHAMMADU BUHARI, President of Nigeria, said new conflicts should not make the world lose focus on those that remained unresolved. While attention had turned to violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and instability in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions caused by Al-Qaida and Boko Haram, older conflicts in Gaza, Yemen and the Rakhine State of Myanmar continued to claim lives and cause immense suffering.
The displacement of the Muslim Rohingya community in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, in particular, required urgent international action, he said. “The international community cannot remain silent and not condemn the horrendous suffering caused by, from all indications, a State-backed programme of brutal depopulation of the Rohingya-inhabited areas in Myanmar on the basis of ethnicity and religion,” he emphasized.
Addressing the root causes of those conflicts was crucial for long-lasting stability and peace, he said, many of which stemmed from widening inequalities within societies and between rich and poor nations. “These inequalities and gaps are part of the underlining root causes of competition for resources, frustration and anger leading to spiralling instability,” he asserted.
While those conflicts raged, the most pressing threat to international peace and security was the accelerated nuclear weapons development programme by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, urging that “all necessary pressure and diplomatic efforts must be brought to bear” on that country. “As Hiroshima and Nagasaki painfully remind us, if we fail, the catastrophic and devastating human loss and environmental degradation cannot be imagined,” he warned. He called on all Member States to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which would open for signature on 20 September.
Amid mounting pressure to end those crises, he said the international community could take heart that strides had been made to bring stability to conflict zones. He commended the United Nations for helping to settle thousands of civilians displaced by the fighting in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and expressed appreciation for efforts by Germany, Italy and Turkey to assist thousands of refugees.
MILOŠ ZEMAN, President of the Czech Republic, described a new type of civilization, an anti-civilization, which had emerged over the last two to three decades. Its typical feature was that it was based on terror — and nothing more. Europe and the world were facing terrorist actions and “we all express solidarity with the victims and organize protests, but, unfortunately, we still hesitate to fight terrorist organizations with full power,” he said.
He recalled that, one year ago, he had criticized the United Nations for not being able to define the word terrorism in 70 years of existence. On the other hand, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s new Office for Counter-Terrorism as a reasonable and practical solution. There were currently 38 anti-terrorist organizations and institutions under the United Nations umbrella, and as that number increased, the more terrorist organizations flourished.
Calling for the use of military force against terrorism according to Article 47 of the Charter of the United Nations, he welcomed the appointment of the Under-Secretary-General of the Counter-Terrorism Office who would be able to solve problems in the fight against Islamic terrorism.
On the other side of the coin was the issue of migration, he said, which was often provoked by terrorist actions, as had been the case in Syria and Iraq. Migration was connected to terrorism in that terrorists often hid within migrant populations. While migrants must be welcomed, massive migration from African and other countries underscored the issue of “brain drain” — the weakening of potential in those countries. By welcoming migrants in Europe, countries were fuelling the phenomenon of brain drain, and in turn, reversing progress in countries of origin.
In conclusion, he said the war on terrorism should be based on historical optimism and a belief that it would be overcome. In Barcelona, for example, the Spanish people had said they were not afraid, while former United States President Franklin Roosevelt had proclaimed freedom from fear. The most beautiful expression of historical optimism, however, was in the words of theologian Martin Luther whom he quoted as having said: “If I knew that it would be doomsday tomorrow, I shall go today and plant an apple tree.”
ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF, President of Liberia, said the seventy-second session was taking place at a time of historic transition in her country, as well as amid acute challenges to the world order. The session’s theme, “Focusing on people — striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet”, aptly captured a universal aspiration. “The work of the United Nations has never been more important to the search for peace and the sustenance for global stability than it is today,” she said. Noting that the Organization offered great hope to a troubled world, she stressed that “Liberians bear witness to this truth” and remained grateful for United Nations support.
Recalling that, 11 years ago, she had first stood before the Assembly as Liberia’s newly elected President and the first democratically elected woman Head of State in Africa, she said her country was now just 22 days away from holding historic legislative and presidential elections. They would mark the first time in 73 years that political power would be handed over peacefully and democratically from one elected leader to another, and signal the country’s irreversible course towards consolidating its young, post-conflict democracy. Outlining some of Liberia’s progress since the end of its 15-year civil war, she said it had reshaped its armed forces and national police, transformed its economy and embraced diversification.
Moreover, she said, previously dysfunctional public institutions now had the capacity to respond to the needs of citizens. Infrastructure was being repaired, while the increasing provisions of electricity, potable water and technology had resulted in cities and towns that were “bustling with new life”. Liberia had enjoyed the benefits of multilateralism through support provided by the United Nations, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). “From a pariah State, Liberia has gradually regained the confidence of nations,” she said, adding that the country had empowered ordinary citizens and fostered a shared sense of ownership, giving women a voice and the right to be heard. It was establishing transborder development corridors to enhance regional trade and strengthening the rule of law to tackle systemic corruption.
“Liberia has come a long way,” she said, emphasizing that it could not have done so without the United Nations, especially the stabilization and security provided by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). In that context, she urged the United Nations and its Member States to continue to lead, to spread the values of democracy, human rights and good governance, while also strengthening solidarity for economic transformation and social resilience. It must also remain committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, as progress was inextricably linked to ending conflict and sustaining peace.
Noting that progress had been elusive in lingering efforts to reform the Security Council and make it more responsive to current realities, she said that call for reform must be pursued more robustly towards an early conclusion. Africa’s views on that matter had been articulated in the Ezulwini Consensus, and today, its countries were participating in strong regional and subregional bodies that were evolving to preserve peace and security, while strengthening economic integration. The United Nations must continue to evolve to more effectively serve the common interest of all Member States, she said.
EMMANUEL MACRON, President of France, outlining his country’s duty to speak up for the voiceless, said the people of Syria had suffered enough. The international community should acknowledge its collective failure and find methods to build a durable peace. France was unwavering against the use of chemical weapons and he underscored the need to act against Islamic terrorism in Syria and Iraq. As Jihadist terrorism had hit France and other nations, use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, including financing, should be challenged.
As forced migration had demonstrated, there were no barriers to the onward march of despair, he said, which should be changed towards the road to freedom. Access to humanitarian aid should be provided and the rule of law re-established. “As we all know, we are dealing with ethnic cleansing here,” he said, and humanitarian law was no longer being respected. The protection of refugees was a moral and political duty, and France had pledged to support the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)in opening escape routes wherever required and by upholding the Geneva Convention. The causes of instability must also be addressed, as migration and terrorism were political challenges first and foremost. If they were to be overcome, it would only be through development.
He said France would work to ensure that aid arrived in countries where it was needed. Its first priority was to invest in education, followed by health to combat pandemics and malnutrition. He highlighted the key role of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in preserving progress and protecting freedom of expression. In that context, he called for the creation of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the protection of journalists across the world.
On climate change, which was leading to increasing numbers of disasters, he said the planet was “taking its revenge for the folly of mankind”. France had promised to achieve a universal agreement in Paris, which had been signed in the General Assembly. That was “not up for renegotiation”, he said, as taking it apart would demolish the existing pact between States — and between generations. While the agreement could be improved, the international community should not backtrack. He fully respected the decision of the United States, noting that the door would always be open, and that France would continue to work with Governments, local governments, non-governmental organizations and others on combatting climate change. On 12 December, his Government would meet in Paris with those who wished to drive forward. It would also allocate €5 billion to climate action between now and 2020.
Turning to non-proliferation, he said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should be brought to the negotiation table for a political settlement, noting that France rejected escalation and would not close any door to a dialogue that would work towards peace. He expressed support for the nuclear agreement with Iran, noting its renunciation would be a “grave error”. Multilateralism was the only way forward with both the situation in Iran and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. France would stand shoulder to shoulder with the United Nations to carry out organizational reform, he said, calling on the Security Council to not use its veto when atrocities were carried out. Forgotten voices had their place in the General Assembly. To ignore them would mean that the challenges they faced would engulf us all.
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERÓN, President of Colombia, said his address before the General Assembly today was his eighth and final one as a President. He recalled several developments that had taken place since his first address in 2010, noting that Colombia had undergone a positive change and that the world had seen both improvements and setbacks. “We were all witnesses, victims or protagonists,” he said. Indeed, Colombian armed forces had defeated the military chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The peace process with FARC had not only culminated with an agreement but with something more important: the saving of thousands of lives. The news he brought from Colombia was not of death, but indeed, of life.
That Colombia had ended a conflict that had killed thousands and left millions displaced should offer hope for other conflicts around the world, he said. Ending war, and overcoming hate and fear, required a complex process of dialogue and concessions. Colombia had succeeded thanks to political will and an awareness that peace was a necessary condition for both progress and happiness. Paying tribute to the United Nations, he said a special mission had been established by the Security Council to verify and monitor the disarmament of FARC, as well as the ceasefire between the guerrillas and the Government. More than 900,000 weapons had been destroyed and members of the former guerrilla groups had created a political movement to defend their ideas in a democratic manner. “This is what a peace process is all about,” he exclaimed, “replacing bullets for votes and ending the use of weapons as a means for political pressure”.
In the coming days, another mission recently authorized by the Security Council would be established to reintegrate guerrillas into civil life, he said, and ensure security to both the former combatants and communities that had suffered from armed conflict. From 1 October, the United Nations would help ensure compliance with the ceasefire and temporary cessation of hostilities achieved with the National Liberation Army, with whom Colombia was negotiating to restore complete peace.
He said building peace was a lengthy process entailing political, economic and social dimensions for which innovative programs in education, health and infrastructure were needed to close the deep social gaps in Colombia. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) highlighted the progress Colombia had achieved in reducing poverty, and in seven years, more than 5 million Colombians had been taken out of economic hardship. However, the air of hope in Colombia had not made them blind to the difficult situations for peace and democracy in other parts of the world. He condemned the launch of nuclear missiles and tests by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea that constituted a global threat to peace and security, also expressing concern for Venezuela and the gradual dismantling of its democracy. He called upon the Secretary‑General and the international community to support the Venezuelan people.
Turning to terrorism, he said it should be tackled with every means possible — military, political, intelligence and international cooperation — while its roots of fear, exclusion and hate must be replaced with love, compassion and respect for difference. More broadly, the war on drugs had not yet been won and new strategies were needed, he said, pressing States to include human rights in their policies against drugs. Colombia’s vulnerability to climate change had paved the way for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. With that, he offered with humility and gratitude the model of peace that Colombia had built and was happy to share with the world as an example of the strength of love, life and unity.
EMOMALI RAHMON, President of Tajikistan, said rapid globalization had led to development as well as challenges that had sometimes jeopardized United Nations efforts to help people lead secure lives. The Organization should continue to carry out its mission, coordinating Member State efforts to build resilience to threats and challenges. It was impossible to address new global challenges without strengthening the United Nations system, reforms that should enhance its capacity to respond to threats and risks around the world.
Tragic events had undermined international commitments to bring about sustainable development, he said, citing terrorism, transnational organized crime and drug trafficking in that context. Stressing that terrorist movements flourished in hot spots around the world, he said such horrors were not connected with Islamic teachings and did not know the tolerance of Islam. Confronting those threats required Member States to make stupendous efforts and refrain from double standards.
Peace, stability and cooperation were essential for resolving the situation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, noting that in Afghanistan, the growing activity of violent terrorist groups was a matter of serious concern. It was high time to take strong, coordinated measures to tackle terrorism and drug trafficking, he said, calling on the international community to help, just as his country was ready to do so.
Calling the adoption of the 2030 Agenda a milestone for the international community to work together, he said Tajikistan had made great strides in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. For the success of the Agenda as a whole, it was necessary to help less developed countries, including landlocked nations that lacked access to ports. They required more assistance and the United Nations, through the Economic and Social Council and specialized agencies, should play an important role.
On the Paris Agreement, he said the goals enshrined in that critical document determined the obligations of the international community in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Climate change had accelerated the melting of glaciers, which affected water level rise. Tajikistan suffered from water—related disasters and had spent hundreds of millions of dollars in tackling such problems.
EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU, President of Zambia, said the theme for the Assembly’s session presented an opportunity to evaluate multilateral approaches to the challenges affecting the world’s peoples. Those included threats to socioeconomic development and international peace and security, as well as those posed by terrorism, climate change, nuclear weapons, HIV/AIDS and more. “In this globalized and interdependent world, no country — however wealthy or powerful — can resolve all these challenges singlehandedly,” he stressed, calling for common solutions from a strong United Nations.
He said the effects of climate change were also frustrating efforts to raise living standards for the world’s poor and meet the Sustainable Development Goals. He expressed hope that, at the twenty-third Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, countries would establish mechanisms to implement the Paris Agreement, and that stakeholders would ensure the Green Climate Fund was adequately funded. As a developing country, Zambia required assistance to enhance its adaptive capacities in areas such as scientific research, early warning and rapid response to address the adverse impacts of climate change, as well as the appropriate technologies to do so.
Underlining Zambia’s commitment to fostering an all-inclusive development paradigm based on the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, he recalled the recent launch of the seventh national development plan under the theme “accelerating development efforts towards the attainment of the national vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind”. That plan sought to improve productivity in agriculture and create opportunities for unskilled wage improvement in sectors such as manufacturing. It would pay particular attention to uplifting living standards in rural areas and place a new focus on “agro-value addition”, while aiming to reduce poverty. In keeping with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, Zambia would mobilize and use all sources of finance — whether locally mobilized or through internal cooperating partners — for the benefit of its citizens.
Pledging solidarity with those nations working to deepen their democracies, he recalled that several countries — including in Africa — had held national elections since the Assembly’s last general debate. “This is the Africa we want for the twenty-first century and, indeed, the future we want,” he said. Zambia continued to support those still affected by conflict through its membership in the African Union Peace and Security Council, and looked forward to a successful tenure in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Troika on Politics, Defence and Security. Zambia also continued to serve in peacekeeping operations, he said, calling on the United Nations not to “relent on its duty” to vulnerable people around the world, but rather to redouble its efforts.
Stressing that such actions should go further to seek the protection of victims of conflict — including displaced persons — he underscored the need to cooperate in providing a conducive environment in full respect for human rights, social development and well-being. Zambia had a particular focus on women, children and youth, he said, recalling that it had engaged traditional leaders to reform traditions and customs allowing child marriage. Indeed, as the designated African Union champion on ending child marriage for 2017, he announced the launch of a related campaign in 20 countries out of the 30 in Africa with the highest prevalence of child marriage. On the issue of United Nations reform, he said such a process would not be complete without meaningful reform of the Security Council, which must become more representative, democratic and accountable to all Member States, irrespective of status. As Africa constituted the second‑largest bloc of the United Nations membership, reform proposals should “heed Africa’s legitimate call” and “move away from the deliberate attempts to create a maze of an otherwise clear question”.
DALIA GRYBAUSKAITĖ, President of Lithuania, said the world’s peaceful future was under threat like never before. Authoritarian regimes killed with impunity, extremists treated innocent people with unspeakable cruelty and thousands of people continued to die leaving their homes in search of a better life.
She said while the world’s attention was now focused on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria, it was important to realize that the same methods of blackmail, bullying and aggression had been used by the Russian Federation in Ukraine and along the eastern borders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Some 100,000 Russian troops were engaged in offensive military “Zapad 2017” exercises on the borders of Baltic States, Poland and in the Artic. “The Kremlin is rehearsing aggressive scenarios against its neighbours, training its army to attack the West,” she said, an exercise that was part of an information warfare aimed at spreading uncertainty and fear.
Moreover, she said, the Russian Federation had violated the United Nations Charter by attacking Georgia, illegally annexing Crimea and participating in the war in eastern Ukraine. It continued to meddle in elections, conduct cyberattacks and use its “sputniks” to spread fake news and destabilizing propaganda. Energy blackmail was also the country’s weapon of choice. She pointed to Astravets, an unsafe nuclear power plant built by the Russian Federation in Belarus just 40 kilometres from Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, calling it a “geopolitical weapon that fails to comply with basic international nuclear standards”.
Such examples of abuse and indifference to basic international norms stemmed from a collective failure to condemn and properly react to violations, she said. “Time and time again we have no courage to enforce the rules that we ourselves create,” she said. “We draw red lines in the sand and then pretend they don’t exist.” The international community must step up to stop aggression. “We cannot let fear win by closing our eyes to violators, because it will only encourage them to go further,” she stressed. Countries must learn to read the warning signs, such as abuse of human rights, nationalist rhetoric and suppression of free speech, which could explode into violence.
Importantly, the United Nations must change in order to prevent violence and aggression, she said. Unfortunately, the Organization had not fulfilled its goal of preventing war. “Now we face the choice: either we give this Organization the voice to rise against the abuse or we will make it irrelevant,” she said.
SHEIKH TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL-THANI, Amir of Qatar, said the peaceful settling of disputes between States was still being done in an episodic and non‑binding manner. Perhaps it was time for an international convention that would impose dialogue and negotiation, he said, adding that the position of major Powers should not range between the extremes of occupation of other countries and standing idly by. Commending the theme of this year’s General Assembly session, he called on Myanmar and the international community to assume their legal and moral responsibility and take steps to stop violence against the Rohingya minority.
Since 5 June, Qatar and its people had been subjected to an unjust blockade imposed by neighbouring countries, he said. Those countries had also interfered in the internal affairs of many States, inflicting damage on the war on terror while opposing reform and supporting tyrannical regimes. Qatar had refused to yield to pressure, he said, expressing his country’s readiness to resolve differences through compromises and calling for unconditional dialogue based on mutual respect for sovereignty.
Terrorism and extremism were among the world’s most serious challenges, he said, emphasizing that Governments had no choice but to cooperate and to address social, political and cultural root causes. Care must be taken, however, not to make the fight against terrorism an umbrella for reprisals or the shelling of civilians. Qatar also rejected the use of double standards in tackling terrorism and extremism, which could not be linked with any particular religion, race, civilization, culture or society, he said.
Israel still stood in the way of a lasting, just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, he said. The international community must give high priority to the resumption of peace negotiations that would end the Israeli occupation of Arab territories within a specified time frame in accordance with the two‑State solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. He appealed to Palestinian brothers to complete national reconciliation and to speak with unity.
Turning to the situation in Syria, he said serious work must be carried out to reach a political solution that would meet the Syrian people’s aspirations for justice, dignity and freedom while maintaining the country’s unity and sovereignty. Qatar would spare no effort to help alleviate the humanitarian suffering of its Syrian brothers. On Libya, he said the Government of National Accord must be supported in its efforts to restore stability and counter terrorism. Qatar also supported the Government of Iraq’s efforts to achieve security, stability and unity. On Yemen, he said its unity, security and stability must be maintained, and for humanitarian access to be facilitated. He went on to call a constructive dialogue between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Iran based on common interests, good neighbourliness, respect for State sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN, President of Turkey, said that global peace and stability had regressed due to the spread of terrorism and war, violent actions of xenophobia, cultural racism and animosity towards Islam. Sincere cooperation at the United Nations and development of a new perspective to promote world peace would be the most effective way to reverse that negative trend. Turkey was pursuing enterprising foreign policy and humanitarian action to help create a safer, more prosperous world. With deep historical ties to Syria, Turkey had not been indifferent to that country’s tragedy and it would continue humanitarian and political efforts to resolve it. Turkey was hosting more than 3 million Syrian refugees, and with the Russian Federation and Iran, it had organized meetings in Astana with the conflicting parties to establish a permanent ceasefire in Syria. Within the framework of the Astana agreements, Turkey was carrying out a new plan to secure the Idlib region. It continued to take steps to host Syrian refugees and provide them with shelter, food, clothing, health care and education. The cost of providing for Syrian refugees in Turkey had exceeded $30 billion, but the European Union had only sent 820 million euros out of the promised 3 billion euros, he said, calling on Governments and international organizations to fulfil their aid pledges.
Turkey, through various organizations, carried out humanitarian aid and development activities worldwide, including $1 billion for the reconstruction of Somalia which, he noted, could serve as an example for future efforts. With $6 billion in aid in 2016, Turkey ranked as the world’s second-largest donor and top aid contributor in terms of gross national product (GNP), and it was working hard towards a sustainable world. Turkey continued to fight terrorist organizations in the region such as Da’esh, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and the Fethullah Gülen. Turkey had recovered 243 residential areas and more than 2,000 square kilometres and neutralized almost 3,000 Da’esh militants thanks to Operation Euphrates Shield — the single greatest accomplishment against Da’esh since it occupied the region.
Actions by the Democratic Union Party-People’s Protection Units, or PYD-YPG, he continued, were a crime against humanity. If the fight against Da’esh was not carried out legitimately, the world may come under the threat of similar terrorist entities. Similar terror concerns were arising in Iraq, and he called upon the Kurdish regional government in that country to end its demand for independence, warning that “ignoring the clear and determined stance of Turkey on the matter may lead to a process that shall deprive the Iraqi Kurdish regional government [of] even the opportunities they currently enjoy”. Turkey was closely following the situation in Libya and Yemen, where terrorist organizations were trying to establish influence, he said, and cautioned against repeating in Libya the mistakes made in Syria and Iraq. He also called for the immediate resolution of the conflict in the Gulf region, citing the negative consequences of sanctions on the Qatari people, and reiterated support for the mediation efforts of Kuwait and the hope that Saudi Arabia would show sincere will for the resolution of that issue.
The issue of Palestine and the preservation of the historical status of Jerusalem and Haram al-Sharif remained significant concerns, he said. The peace process could only continue if Israel immediately stopped illegal settlement activities and took steps towards a two-State solution. He called upon the international community to support Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza in their struggle for an independent and geographically unified Palestinian State. He further highlighted concerns over the Balkans and their integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and the need to resolve the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On the question of Cyprus, he expressed sadness that the comprehensive negotiation process begun in 2008 had ended due in part to the stance of the Greek Cypriots. Turkey would do its best to ensure that the national resources discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean would serve peace, stability and welfare of the region and that proposals for a solution should respect the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
He went on to express sadness for the Muslim community in the Rakhine region of Myanmar, who were being subjected to “almost an ethnic cleansing”, forcing hundreds of thousands to migrate, including to camps in Bangladesh that were not in a position to fulfil even their minimum humanitarian needs. As was the case in Syria, the international community had not adequately addressed the Rohingyas’ humanitarian plight. If that tragedy was not stopped, humanity would face another “dark stain”. Turkey was working to address the crisis through various meetings — including with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Contact Group later in the day — and assistance activities to aid Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Bangladesh and other countries. Those developments and humanitarian tragedies illustrated the relevance of Turkey’s appeal to restructure the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, and he supported the Secretary‑General’s work towards that end. The Council should have a democratic, transparent and effective structure comprising 20 members who served two-year terms and had the same rights and competencies.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister of Israel, said a great revolution was occurring regarding his country’s standing among the community of nations, including what corporations such as Google had known for years. Israel was a leader in technology and possessed exceptional capabilities in fighting terrorism, having provided intelligence that had foiled dozens of terrorist attacks in recent times. “You may not know this, but your Governments do,” he said, underlining that Israel was working hard to keep the world safe. In recent years, dozens of world leaders had visited, including Heads of State from India and the United States. He had travelled to six continents and was the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit Latin America. “The world was embracing Israel and Israel was embracing the world,” he said.
However, concerns persisted, he said. Noting the Security Council’s anti-Israel resolution adopted in December 2016 and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) support for a Syrian-sponsored resolution on health conditions, he said there were “no limits to the absurdity” of the United Nations stance on Israel, including that UNESCO had deemed as a Palestinian World Heritage Site parts of Hebron. Despite a repetition of similarly farcical events, there were some signs of change, even at the United Nations. Denying Israel’s right to exist was anti-Semitism, he reiterated, echoing the Secretary‑General’s statement earlier today. The marked change was due in part to the United States, he said, thanking the United States President and Ambassador for “speaking the truth” about Israel.
Turning to Iran, he said the United States President’s speech today had rightly called the nuclear deal “an embarrassment”. Pointing out that Iran had vowed to destroy Israel, was conducting a campaign of conquest and developing ballistic missiles to threaten the entire world, he warned that restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme contained a sunset clause that would automatically remove them. “When that sunset comes, a dark shadow will be cast over the entire Middle East and the world,” he said. If nothing changed, the current deal would follow the same course as that with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Iran nuclear deal must be changed or cancelled, he said, stressing that Iran should be penalized for all violations, the sunset clause voided and the country’s growing aggression in the region rolled back. Indeed, an “Iranian curtain” was descending across the Middle East, spreading a swath of terror and pledging to extinguish the light of Israel. In a message to Iran, he said the light of Israel would never be extinguished. Those threatening Israel with annihilation had placed themselves in great peril, he added, indicating that his country would prevent Iran from establishing military bases in Syria and from opening new terror fronts against Israel’s northern border. To the people of Iran, he said “you are not our enemy; you are our friend”.
Expressing a commitment to advancing and achieving peace with all Arab neighbours, including the Palestinians, he said recent discussions had been held with Egypt and with the United States President on those and related issues. A century ago, the Balfour Declaration had advanced Theodor Herzl’s vision for a homeland, which the United Nations had subsequently recognized. Mr. Herzl was “our modern Moses and his dream has come true,” he said, highlighting Israeli contributions around the world. From providing clean water in Africa to life-saving surgeries in the Middle East, Israel was a rising Power among nations, bringing hope and salvation to the ends of the Earth.
IBRAHIM BOUBACAR KEITA, President of Mali, said the session’s theme was both relevant and topical in a world facing multiple threats to peace, security and efforts to improve people’s living conditions. The preservation of the planet was also urgent and in the interest of future generations, he said, adding that his country was working to improve its own conditions. Since taking office, he had worked to bring an end to the Malian crisis, embarking on eight months of negotiations in Algiers. The resulting Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali was aimed at restoring trust between the parties, he said, pointing out that the situation in the country had improved significantly. The interim authorities and transitional colleges were now operational in Mali’s northern region, and the Administration was taking control in Kidal.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), along with national authorities, was now working to stabilize a “new front” in the centre of the country, he said. Paying tribute to the troops that had paid the highest price during the conflict, he also thanked the Council for its adoption of resolution 2364 (2017) renewing the Mission’s mandate, and resolution 2374 (2017) setting up the legal framework for the sanctions regime on those responsible for obstructing the implementation of the peace agreement. Noting that the worsening of the country’s security situation had negatively impacted the agreement’s implementation, he said it also posed a threat to global security, as it was marked by the trafficking of drugs, persons and arms, as well as terrorism. “They are claiming lives in the course of criminal and asymmetric attacks,” he said, adding that no country could tackle such cross-border threats alone.
Noting that such challenges had led to the establishment of the “Group of 5 for the Sahel” (Sahel G-5) — namely, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — he said the Group had set up a joint force to fight against transnational organized crime, trafficking and related issues. He wished that the Council’s resolutions had been undertaken under Chapter VII of the Charter, which would have allowed for the financing of that force. “We are working relentlessly to make this force effective and operational,” he said, expressing hope that further operations would begin in October 2018. Inviting all Member States to attend the upcoming financing conference, he said “the battle we are carrying out in the Sahel must be maintained” and warned that its failure would pose a threat to the world. Pointing out that the Sahel G-5 also placed a high priority on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, he called on the international community to support its Priority Investment Programme, including by attending an “Invest in Mali” conference in Bamako in December.
As an agricultural country, Mali was also concerned about the effects of climate change and was committed to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, he continued. Among other challenges, he pointed out that the world also continued to face public health threats, including pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which must be addressed, and expressed support for the proposed adoption of a global compact on migration in 2018. The realities and requirements of today’s world required the long-awaited reform of the Security Council, he added, reaffirming Mali’s commitment to the common African position on that issue. Finally, he voiced concern about efforts to reduce peacekeeping budgets at the United Nations at a time when they were needed more than ever.
ALBERT II, Prince of Monaco, said the threat of nuclear escalation in Asia had never been greater, adding respect for Security Council resolutions and all Member States was critical to addressing the crisis. The international community could not fail to act in the face of those threats and must deter those who exposed humankind to disaster. Monaco lent its support to collective action for peace and security, he said, noting his country’s membership in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. Working to stop mass suffering was imperative, he said, expressing support for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic.
Famine in Africa, largely exacerbated by war, had become a humanitarian disaster, he noted. Through work with various international organizations and the development of its own strategic plan for public assistance, Monaco was working to guarantee food security and fight corruption. Key to those ideals was the fight against impunity, and his country was committed to respect for justice and peace. Attacks claiming innocent lives affected all of us, regardless of where they took place, he noted.
Monaco, boasting cultural diversity, was open to engaging in open dialogue, he said. It remained steadfast in its support for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, as those must be the priorities of any modern State mindful of its citizens. The many crises across the world justify advocacy for basic human rights, especially for the most vulnerable.
Climate change remained an imminent threat to humankind, he said. Recent natural hazards put into focus the importance of the Paris Agreement and the need to adapt, he continued, stressing that a change in lifestyle was “long overdue”. Calling attention to “glaring inequalities”, he urged moving forward with a resolve to eliminate sexual exploitation, pointing out that that included those abuses in United Nations peacekeeping missions. Monaco supported United Nations reform initiatives, he said, adding that he wanted to see the Organization’s staff working towards a noble goal.
Recalling Monaco had presented its first report on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to the high-level political forum in the summer, he said Goal 14 on aquatic marine life was of particular importance to his country. “Our ability to save the ocean from its gradual decline will enable us to save our planet,” he said. In that regard, he outlined Monaco’s various activities on the safeguarding of marine protected areas and other related issues. He concluded by emphasizing that science should guide all States as they worked towards a better world.
ANDRZEJ DUDA, President of Poland, described sustainable development, peace and security, and the protection of human rights as goals pursued by the international community and as the foundations of the United Nations. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda defined the model of sustainable development at the global level, and showed the world’s ability to work together as a community, he said. The process of eliminating poverty through the implementation of a series of goals should be accompanied by the protection and respect of economic, political, social and environmental rights as well as the right to development.
Turning to Poland’s commitment in the international arena, he expressed both his concern and solidarity about the protracted conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, noting that his country had consistently increased humanitarian aid. He also pointed out that Poland played an active role in the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change and was honoured to host the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Katowice in 2018. That summit would be of key importance due to the planned adoption of the implementation package of the Paris Agreement.
He expressed Poland’s gratitude and honour to be elected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the period 2018‑2019. That reflected the country’s commitment to and involvement in ensuring international peace and security first and foremost through securing the right to sovereignty and freedom inalienably vested in each country. Poland’s position was that international law was the only effective mechanism to preserve peaceful relations among States. The international community and the Council should be aware of attempts by other States to influence democratic policies pursued by free nations. It was not only the military strength of a State that predetermined the sense of security, he added, but also changes in natural environment, economic disparity, conflicts and inadequate health protection. Those were all issues that should be included in the Security Council’s agenda. He also underpinned the value of cooperation and of carrying out international obligations in good faith as the principles of international law regulations. He pinpointed the violation of such regulations as well as the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter in Georgia and Ukraine, including the principles of inviolability of borders, respect of sovereignty, and renouncing the use of military forces in resolution of disputes. He also expressed concern at the flagrant attempt by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to distort the world order by its recent test of nuclear weapons violating international law and Security Council resolutions.
On human rights, he stated that their source lies in the supreme right to live. A particularly visible problem was that of the persecution of persons belonging to religious minorities, including Christians. Poland condemned all instances of persecution and discrimination based on religion. The right to live in dignity should also embrace the right to uphold one’s native traditions and the traditional family model, if compatible with the fundamental rights of an individual.
In conclusion, he cited solidarity, responsibility and engagement as the values that Poland would continue to promote in the international arena to achieve sustainable development, security and peace.
ABDEL FATTAH AL SISI, President of Egypt, said his country’s long-standing involvement with the United Nations — as a founding member having served six times on the Security Council and the seventh-largest contributor to peacekeeping operations — bore witness to its constant effort to build a world based on freedom, dignity, security and prosperity. However, that world was far from reality, with the Arab region having become an epicentre of civil conflicts. Egypt was navigating such unprecedented dangers while relying on an ambitious development strategy that included reform efforts targeting youth.
Egypt’s foreign policy rested on the principle that the only solution to crises afflicting the Arab region was upholding the notion of the modern nation-State based on citizenship, equality, rule of law and human rights. Political solutions were the only way forward in several ongoing crises, he said, adding that a consensual political solution in Syria would succeed through United Nations-led negotiations. Likewise, only a political solution could settle the crisis in Libya, he said, emphasizing that Egypt would not allow the continuation of attempts to tamper with the unity and integrity of the Libyan State. Similarly, political settlements must overcome the crises in Iraq and Yemen.
He went on to underline that the question of Palestine must be addressed promptly, as the time had come for a comprehensive and final settlement of the longest outstanding crisis in the Arab region. “The closure of this chapter through a just settlement is a necessary precondition for the entire region to transit into a new phase of stability and development,” he said, adding that peace would eliminate one of the main pretexts used by terrorists. “It is time to permanently overcome the barrier of hatred forever,” he declared. A comprehensive approach was needed throughout the region to eradicate terrorism and eliminate its root causes, he said. Emphasizing that double standards should not be supported, he said “we in the Muslim world need to face our reality and work together to rectify misconstrued notions which have become an ideological pretext for terrorism.”
Equally important was eliminating the root causes of international crises and sources of threats to global stability, he said. Common but differentiated responsibilities must guide international efforts to narrow the economic and social gaps between developed and developing countries. Such approaches could include involving developing nations in global economic governance structures and facilitating their access to financing, markets and technology transfers.
With the General Assembly session presenting an opportunity for self-reflection, he said, it was time to admit the deficiencies hindering the international system from delivering on the noble objectives it had been created to realize and to renew commitments to establish a more equitable global order, since attaining justice remained a necessary condition for confronting today’s immense challenges. The tragedy facing Myanmar’s Rohingya community was yet another reason why the international community must meet its moral obligations and legal responsibilities, as outlined in the United Nations Charter, he emphasized. “Let us be true to ourselves and dispel the mentality of polarizing policies,” he said. “It is incumbent upon all States to strive to further relations with all partners, with malice to none.”
SHAVKAT MIRZIYOYEV, President of Uzbekistan, said that his country stood for the gradual reform of the United Nations. In accordance with the realities of the modern world, the Security Council should be expanded, and he supported the steps taken by the new leadership of the United Nations to improve the system of its management.
As Uzbekistan was at the heart of Central Asia, the region should become a zone of stability and sustainable development, he said. His country was determined to engage in dialogue and constructive interaction and make reasonable compromises with the countries of Central Asia. The signing of the Treaty on the State border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in September was a landmark event made possible because of the political will demonstrated by all parties involved and their readiness to find mutually acceptable solutions.
The issue of shared water resources was also key for security and stability in Central Asia, he said, and there was no alternative to addressing the water problem other than considering the interests of all countries in the region. He supported the draft conventions on the use of water resources of the Amudarya and Syrdarya river basins developed by the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy.
Turning his remarks to Afghanistan, he said that the stabilization of the situation in that country was an important condition to ensure not only regional but global security. The only way to bring peace to that country was via a direct dialogue among the central Government and main domestic political forces without preconditions. The negotiations should be Afghan-led on the territory of Afghanistan and under the auspices of the United Nations. Uzbekistan had been making contributions to the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan and would continue to do so, he said.
On the threat of terrorism, countermeasures were often reduced to combating the consequences of the challenge rather than its root causes, he said. Along with other factors, ignorance and intolerance were at the heart of international terrorism and extremism. With that in mind, it was important to fight for the minds of people, particularly young people. Most of the crimes linked with extremist activity and violence were committed by people under the age of 30, he said. The planet’s future and well-being depended on what kind of people our children would grow up to be.
SERZH SARGSYAN, President of Armenia, noting that 2017 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of his country’s succession to the United Nations, said Nagorno-Karabakh remained a major challenge for his nation. Azerbaijan had no legal or moral grounds to lay claim to Artsakh, whose people must never be isolated from implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Armenia would contribute to improving living conditions in Artsakh, he said, adding that his country strongly believed that there was no alternative to a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. All available international and domestic mechanisms should guarantee the security of Armenian people in Artsakh.
He said he was grateful for those countries, individuals, State bodies and regional organizations that had recognized the Armenian genocide. In doing so, they had called things by their proper name, he said, noting that 2018 would mark the seventieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. On that occasion, Armenia would present a new initiative, inviting all Member States to support it.
Turning to Armenia’s relations with Turkey, he said that country’s leaders were mistaken if they thought they could hold the Zurich Protocols hostage forever. Normal relations between neighbouring States were needed to discuss disagreements and find solutions, he said. Armenia was an active member of the Eurasian Economic Union and in that regard it was sparing no effort to contribute to the unimpeded movement of goods and services in the region while promoting the welfare of all. In November, Armenia planned to conclude a partnership agreement with the European Union that would give new impetus to institutional reforms.
Instability in the Middle East remained a serious challenge, he said, adding that Armenia was following the crisis in Syria with great pain. Within its means, Armenia was providing humanitarian assistance, and it was also willing to engage in peacemaking efforts under United Nations auspices.
Emphasizing his country’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations, he said it was prepared to increase its contribution to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and MINUSMA. As a landlocked country in a complicated region with few of its own natural resources, Armenia considered people to be the most valuable resource. “We should focus on people and strive for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet,” he said.
LUIS GUILLERMO SOLÍS RIVERA, President of Costa Rica, recalled that his country in September 2016 became the first one to establish a national agreement to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, and that it reduced poverty for the first time in the last seven years. “Leaving no one behind” was a State and government responsibility, but the entities should act along with all sectors in society, he said. He emphasized the importance of rethinking the concept of per capita income to determine a country’s development and called on the Secretary‑General to promote spaces that would implement working strategies to strengthen the capabilities of developing countries and allow more efficiency when cooperating with middle-income and least developed nations.
On development, he stressed the need to pay special attention to productive sectors like family farming, which represented the main source of income for 70 per cent of the poor population worldwide. He mentioned that Costa Rica, along with other countries, would present during the session a resolution on “the decade of family farming 2019‑2028”.
Calling on women’s empowerment, he expressed support for the International Gender Champions proposal which aimed at reversing gender inequality within the United Nations. Speaking about women’s domestic work and unpaid care, he stressed that the unpaid work of women is equivalent to 13 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and pointed to the gender pay gap, with the salary of a woman being 25 per cent lower than that of a man for the same post. Highlighting the need to address the barriers to women’s economic empowerment, he said Costa Rica had a public policy that guaranteed employability on an equal basis.
Stressing that the fight against climate change required ambitious positions, he said the leadership of Chile and Costa Rica had caused Latin America to move towards establishing a regional instrument on the rights of access to participation and justice on environmental matters. He reaffirmed his country’s determination to direct its economy towards carbon neutrality as part of the pre-2020 voluntary action and decarbonize the economy.
He condemned the nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, expressing support for dialogue and multilateralism, and criticized the increase in warmongering rhetoric. He referred to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which he recalled would be signed on 20 September, as a strong message that most Member States condemned nuclear weapons and the threat of their use, and rejected critiques of the Treaty. As an unarmed democracy, Costa Rica underscored the key role of international law as a legitimate mechanism for settling disputes. Addressing the General Assembly for the last time as President of Costa Rica, he expressed hope that the session would be conducted within a framework of demilitarization and denuclearization.
YOWERI KAGUTA MUSEVENI, President of Uganda, asked who would lose if all the world’s people led a decent life that included access to a sufficient diet, immunizations, education, health, electricity, decent work and clean water. What if people did not have to worry about war, terrorism and crime, and if every producer of services or goods enjoyed fair access to the global markets? he asked. What if all countries had good transport and other critical infrastructure? Why was it that only “bad businessmen” enjoyed lucrative global business opportunities?
He went on to recall that a few months ago, he had cautioned fellow farmers against excessive greed in food pricing, adding: “The more buyers we have for our products, the more prosperous we will be.” It was possible to be “both good business persons and good Christians,” he emphasized, describing parasitism as the only obstacle to global affluence, prosperity and peace.
Regarding the dangerous situation on the Korean Peninsula, he said he had only one question: “Who would lose if North Korea and South Korea, those kith and kin, were left alone to discuss their reunification?” Both of those nations had been temporarily divided towards the end of the Second World War, he recalled, asking why that division had been allowed to become permanent. A unified Korea would be a very strong nation, he emphasized, demanding to know why outside forces continued to be allowed to divide Korea.
Africa had encountered similar experiences, he said, adding that the continent was still striving to prevent both foreign and local actors from dividing its peoples. Uganda, for its part, had accommodated many African refugees because of its “conscious ideological position,” he said, adding that “we only fight traitors”. Reverting to the Korean Peninsula situation, he cited historical contexts for reunification, asking: “Who was hurt by a unified Viet Nam or a reunified Germany?”
MAITHRIPALA SIRISENA, President of Sri Lanka, said that since being elected in 2015, he had transferred some executive powers to his country’s Parliament. A leader transferring such an excess of power to another organ set an example for the world. As leaders came into power in democratic countries, they must safeguard democracies and yield their power to build democratic institutions. World history had repeatedly shown leaders were reluctant to do so. The holding onto power by the few continued to lead to mass division.
“I have established democracy in my country and have taken action to get rid of political groups which were moving toward autocracy,” he continued. A great effort was being undertaken by Sri Lanka to alleviate its people of poverty, as the country embarked on a set of programmes to develop itself. Sri Lanka had suffered from a protracted conflict which had lasted for 30 years and had wreaked havoc on its economy. He stressed that sustainable development must be given priority not only in Sri Lanka but worldwide.
Even looking at the United States, a powerful nation, one could see how it had been recently affected by climate change, he said, stressing that the Paris Agreement was important and its implementation essential for the very survival of humanity. Sri Lanka was focused on developing local agriculture, taking the country in a new direction and bringing about change through a set of new national programmes. One such programme focused on safeguarding children from drugs and physical abuse. Another initiative aimed to guarantee the rights of women, he added, noting that the Constitution had been amended towards that end.
The international community must work together to fight drug use, he continued. When his Government had come to power, there were myriad issues that needed to be addressed. Large sums of loans had to be repaid and several human rights concerns addressed. To that end, he had worked for the past two years to strengthen local economies with plans to pay off those loans. Regarding several resolutions passed by the Human Rights Council relating to violations in Sri Lanka, his Government had given those concerns priority and was working on resolving them.
National reconciliation was important particularly among different groups and people speaking different languages, he continued, also adding: “We want to create a country with discipline, a country with higher morals.” He commended the work of the United Nations, emphasizing its role in ensuring the independence and sovereignty of his country. Certain extremist elements expected fast results, he said, emphasizing: “They want short-term solutions.” Sri Lanka wanted to create peace and unity and to promote brotherhood among its people through prosperity. “Ours is a slow and steady pace.”
KERSTI KALJULAID, President of Estonia, said that much of the disruption the world was facing stemmed from climate change, which could be countered by a rapid technological disruption of “our wasteful ways of life”. Estonia was a nation of just over 1 million people and had gone through a rapid transformation in the past 25 years. Its economic and social statistics demonstrated it was good at protecting its weakest while growing its economy. “We know it can be done,” she stressed, noting that her country’s guiding principles were the rule of law, checks and balances, and individual rights.
She also noted that Estonia was aspiring to become an elected member of the United Nations Security Council for the period of 2020 to 2021, emphasizing that as a small State with a long history of being occupied, it was well-positioned to understand the plight of the world’s most vulnerable. There were too many States in the world which suffered from unresolved conflicts. Ongoing military aggression in eastern Ukraine continued to stir conflict and cause casualties amongst the civilians. The Crimean Peninsula remained occupied, as did parts of Georgia.
The world had lost half a million people in Syria alone, she said, adding that it was critical to hold responsible those who had committed human rights and humanitarian crimes. The world must not overlook the escalating human suffering in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. On the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she said the situation remained an acute threat to world peace, and added that the key to countering terrorism and violent extremism lay in cooperation at all levels.
It was vital to address the root causes and drivers for irregular migration to improve border management and fight trafficking in human beings, she continued, recalling the “bitter lesson” from Estonia’s history when its people were dispersed around the world during the Second World War. It had taught Estonia the importance of empathy towards refugees fleeing the atrocities of war and destruction. Tackling migration also meant tackling climate change, which had become the defining issue of modern times. Such massive universal problems could only be tackled by inclusive societies. Women had a critical role to play particularly in conflict situations, she said, emphasizing the need to achieve gender balance in peace processes. Gender-based violence must be done away with, she stressed, adding that survivors must be treated with dignity and perpetrators of the crimes held accountable.
She went on to share her country’s experience on how best to utilize e-governance to achieve sustainable development and at a lower cost. Digital change was everywhere, making geography obsolete in some ways. A digitally enhanced global civil society functioned better when States provided their people with a safe means of digital communication. She urged Governments to catch up on that front. Greater dependence on electronic services had resulted in greater vulnerability in cyberspace, she continued, adding that that did not mean stopping digital progress. It meant that Governments must do more to analyse how international law applied to the use of information and communications technology (ICT).
JIMMY MORALES, President of Guatemala, expressing solidarity with those countries in his region affected by storms and hurricanes, noted that his nation in 2017 had incorporated the Sustainable Development Goals into its national development plan. In November, it would submit to its third universal periodic review before the Human Rights Council. Guidelines for consultations for indigenous peoples, pursuant to the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), had also been drawn up.
The agreement between the United Nations and Guatemala that established the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala was the first of its kind in the world, he said. It was vital that it was complied with faithfully. Having started its work in 2007, its mandate had been extended five times, demonstrating a firm commitment to strengthen and support its work, he said.
He underscored his Government’s increased spending on justice and its commitment to combating corruption and impunity. Guatemala had also signed and ratified the Paris Agreement, he said, thanking the President of France for proposing a global compact for the environment. The Government was working hard on a national strategy on malnutrition and collaborating with international partners to end crime, corruption and drug trafficking.
Institutional and international action on migration was an important issue for Guatemala, he said, including partnership with Mexico, Honduras and the United States. Guatemala was counting on the efforts of Member States to negotiate an agreement on safe, regular and orderly migration. Turning to the situation of “dreamers” in the United States, he said Guatemala hoped that the American people’s sense of humanity would lead to the United States Senate adopting legislation that would allow “dreamers” to enjoy legal status in that country.
Guatemala was proud to contribute to United Nations peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere in Africa, as well as in Haiti, he said. It was honoured to continue to participate in the United Nations Mission in Colombia. Strongly condemning acts of provocation and destabilization that threated international peace and security, he said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear tests were flagrant violations of international law, Security Council resolutions and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Security for all could only come through a total prohibition of nuclear weapons. He expressed concern over the political crisis in Venezuela and emphasized Guatemala’s commitment to resolve its maritime dispute with Belize through the International Court of Justice.
MOHAMMAD ASHRAF GHANI AHMADZAI, President of Afghanistan, noted that, 16 years after the 11 September 2001 tragedy, the threat of violence by non-State actors had taken the form of a “fifth wave” of political violence that had promised to continue for decades. Terrorism attacked not only human lives and basic freedoms, but also a nation State’s relationship with its people. The threat of terrorism must be addressed through unity and a long-term solution to match the terrorists’ own long-term agenda, he said.
The tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been incorporated into the constitutions of most countries, yet crimes against humanity still occurred regularly, he continued, adding that the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya was especially shocking. Aung San Suu Kyi’s lengthy silence was tragic, and one would have hoped that such an icon of human rights would have chosen principle over power. Afghanistan welcomed the chance to have a seat on the Human Rights Council so that it could play a more central role in discussing such issues, he said.
Emphasizing that the United Nations would have had to be invented if it did not exist today, he said the Organization must deliver as “one United Nations” in order to remain relevant to countries like Afghanistan. United Nations agencies should be subjected to market tests that would measure value for money and the sustainability of results by comparison to Government, private sector and non-governmental modes of delivery.
Describing Afghanistan as a frontline State in a global struggle against terrorism and in defence of democratic freedoms, he said that his country’s partnership with the United States and the international community had been renewed by President Trump’s strategy to counter terror and stabilize South Asia. “We welcome this strategy, which has now set us on a pathway to certainty,” he said.
Emphasizing the importance of a political settlement in his country and calling on the Taliban to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue, he noted that more than 20 international terrorist groups were present in Afghanistan, and the country was on the front line of a terrorist threat that knew no boundaries. Strong commitments from international partners would not alone ensure success in Afghanistan. The roots of success lay within the Afghan people, in whose country a foundation for stability had been put in place. The threat of international terrorism had long dominated Afghanistan’s narrative, but the country had enormous potential to be a regional broker for peace, a hub of economic prosperity and a beacon of democratic values, he said.
ADAMA BARROW, President of the Gambia, said his country was undergoing “a new democratic beginning” in a transition that had come about through a political crisis. The Gambia had been able to overcome the crisis and recognize the importance of national unity, regional intervention and international support, he said, thanking ECOWAS for its timely intervention to restore peace. The Gambia faced enormous challenges, ranging from the need for economic revitalization to the necessity of judicial reform, he said, emphasizing that only by overcoming those challenges could the country consolidate its democratic gains and deliver a new Gambia “fit for our children to be proud of”. Reform plans would incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, he added.
He went on to describe climate change as critically relevant to the Gambia’s development. With land productivity having declined due to climate change, Gambians had been forced to seek new sources of income abroad and many perished on the journey from the Gambia to Europe, he said. That had disproportionately affected young people, who were at the core of the Gambia’s transition, and as such, youth employment would become a priority, he said.
As part of its transition, he said, the Gambia was taking clear steps to participate more fully in the international community and was in the process of rejoining the Commonwealth and the International Criminal Court. Plans were also being finalized for a round table donors’ conference to mobilize resources for the Gambia’s long-term development. Such efforts, especially in the areas of transitional justice and security-sector reform, would help to consolidate peace, justice and democracy in the country, he noted.
He urged the private sector to emulate the generosity of philanthropists towards the world’s most marginalized. Regional cooperation would prove central to the “pursuit of peace and security in Africa”, with regional bodies like ECOWAS playing a key role. Being good neighbours would help to combat the security threats gripping the region, he added. Noting that his country remained deeply concerned over the lack of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he emphasized that the Gambia continued to promote a two-State solution, adding that, in Asia, it still fully recognized the People’s Republic of China as the sole representative of the Chinese people.
The President went on to express support for United Nations reform, stressing that it was necessary to ensure “trust and accountability” between Member States and the Secretariat. Reform must also include the Security Council, he said, pointing out that Africa had not given up its legitimate and historic quest for true membership. The Gambia supported the African Union’s demand for “long overdue” reform, he emphasized.
EVO MORALES AYMA, President of Bolivia, expressing solidarity with the people of Mexico following that day’s earthquake, said that much of the promise of the United Nations had come to nothing. Rather than making progress, the world was slipping backwards. War and violent conflict had persisted, while 2017 was the hottest year in world history. Emphasizing that all countries must comply with the Paris Agreement, he said it was unjustifiable that the United States had decided to turn its back on that instrument. That country was among the main polluters and its Government had become a threat to Mother Earth, he said.
Water was the lifeblood of Mother Earth, he said, and that resource must be respected, shared and protected for future generations. Bolivia promoted the recognition of water as a human right, he said, noting that its Constitution prohibited the exploitation of that resource for profit. Where water flowed, so too did peace, he said, adding that it must never be a source of conflict.
The world was also more unjust and unequal, he said. Inequality was immoral. Calling for the establishment of universal citizenship, he said the migration crisis was the product of a world order dominated by greed, inequality and the destruction of Mother Earth. No migrant was illegal and walls ran counter to the history of mankind, he said. There should be no difference between a foreigner and a national.
Urging the United States to end its blockade of Cuba, he said new measures announced by President Trump would reverse progress made in relations between those two countries. The United States must also provide economic reparations to Cuba and return Guantanamo to Cuban sovereignty, he said, recalling that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, speaking in the General Assembly, had warned against imperialism.
Bolivia welcomed the peace process in Colombia and the incorporation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) into political life, he said. Condemning unilateral sanctions and threats of invasion made by the United States Government against Venezuela, he said “our region is nobody’s backyard” and expressed solidarity with that country’s President and people. The Palestinian cause could not be abandoned, he said, demanding implementation of the two-State solution. He hailed efforts by the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey towards a ceasefire in Syria. He went on to say that any military solution on the Korean Peninsula must be avoided and negotiations resumed. “We must fight capitalism, colonialism and imperialism,” he said, adding that success in that regard would lead to equality, social justice, peace and development.
JUAN ORLANDO HERNÁNDEZ ALVARADO, President of Honduras, opened by expressing his condolences and support to the people of Mexico following the earthquake. Turning to his country, he said that over the past four years there had been a push to build a “new Honduras” and that today it was safer and more prosperous. The fight against transnational crime, bolstered by police reform, had brought homicide rates down by 30 per cent and economic reforms made Honduras a more stable investment partner as evidenced by growing exports, he said. His nation, along with Guatemala, was moving to expand a customs union across the region, he added. As this union worked to include El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, it would become the seventh largest economy in Latin America.
Honduras sought to implement special employment zones to attract new investors, he said. Those measures would attract foreign workers and improve working conditions for Hondurans while generating some 600,000 new jobs. Efforts were being made to combat corruption, he continued, pointing to Honduras’ agreement with Transparency International to improve public sector administration. Those improvements and new investments had transformed it into a modern logistics centre for Central America.
His country had made strides in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, focusing on Goal 1 by creating a programme to assist the most marginalized sectors of its population. While inclusive international approaches to address poverty were needed, the methodologies used by developed countries to determine who needed assistance left middle-income countries in limbo. Honduras would focus on providing social support mechanisms to avoid any citizen being deprived of basic needs.
Expressing support for United Nations reform, he said that it must be guided by the Secretary‑General to accomplish goals of the 2030 Agenda. Through such reform countries begin to tackle the pressing issues of climate change, nuclear proliferation, poverty, transnational crime and terrorism, he said.
“Climate change has shown itself to be merciless,” he noted, pointing to the catastrophic hurricanes that had hit the Caribbean region. Honduras rejected recent nuclear tests and supported Security Council resolutions and diplomatic channels seeking a solution. Turning to poverty, he said that it had led to internal and external migration and called on host nations to treat Honduran workers with dignity and respect. “It is painful for any person to leave behind their family, their customs, their homeland,” he said, and called on all to work together to build a better world.
SEBASTIAN KURZ, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, said international cooperation was the solution to solve challenges States and institutions faced, ranging from conflicts worldwide to poverty, hunger and climate change. As holder of the 2017 OSCE Chairmanship, he cited the fight against terrorism and radicalization as a priority for the organization, stating: “It’s necessary to destroy radical groups where they work, like in Syria and Iraq, but also to fight radicalization within societies with police measures and by protecting the youth.”
Speaking on the migration crisis as a global challenge, he said that support must be provided for countries of origin. Over the past four years Austria decided to double its bilateral development assistance and to quadruple its emergency fund. To manage orderly migration, countries also needed to establish effective controls of their borders and to destroy the business model of traffickers of human beings. Smugglers could not sell their tickets to Europe when there was no way to come through, he said. He then addressed the crisis in and around Ukraine and stressed that in March the OSCE had strengthened its Special Monitoring Mission, which was key in stabilizing the situation. He welcomed the discussions in the Council to increase the security of the monitors, eventually with a United Nations peacekeeping operation.
The risk of nuclear confrontation was bigger than it had been in a long time, he said, stating that the escalation of tension in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a warning signal. Austria welcomed the Vienna Agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on observation of Iran’s nuclear activities as well as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which represented a key step to creating a safer world. Urging for defending human rights, rule of law and good governance, he noted the country’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council for 2019‑2021.
ISSELKOU OULD AHMED IZID BIH, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania, underscored his country’s pivotal role in maintaining peace and security in the Sahel region. Despite a complex regional situation, experts had noted its success in dealing with terrorism and extremism while paying due attention to individual and collective rights. Since 2016 it had also further established democracy and the rule of law. Illegal immigration had been reduced to zero, while the country hosted more than 60,000 refugees.
Mauritania had played a leading role in establishing the Sahel G-5 and hosted that regional organization’s secretariat, he said. Slavery had been criminalized and legislation strengthened to address the vestiges of servitude. Women had acquired greater importance through initiatives that made them more present in all sectors, including those once monopolized by men. In view of its strategic location, Mauritania had striven to attract foreign investment with policies that sought to guarantee investors’ rights.
He called on the Assembly to work towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian State and for the crisis in Yemen to be settled through support for its President. Mauritania called on all parties in Libya to redouble their efforts to stand up to armed groups. In Syria, it urged all concerned parties to reach a settlement.
On climate change, he said shifting sand dunes were destroying agricultural and grazing lands in Mauritania, which was preparing appropriate policies and investing in renewable energy sources. He noted that Mauritania hosted the headquarters of the 7,000-kilometre-long Great Green Wall from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, benefitting 11 countries. He said his country hoped all parties to the Paris Agreement would uphold their commitments. He also said that reforming the United Nations — including the Security Council — was an urgent necessity.
Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the representative of the Israeli regime had made unfounded allegations against his country. The nature of that regime was founded on aggression, occupation, suppression, violence and terror, he said, adding that in the information age, “weapons of mass deception” were becoming more useless day by day. That representative could have explained why his regime had invaded all its neighbours, and even countries outside its region, waging 15 wars in its short lifetime. Why did that regime continue to disrespect resolutions adopted by the Assembly, the Security Council and other United Nations bodies, he asked, and why was it a State sponsor of terrorism, including support for ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) with arms and other military assistance. It was the world’s last apartheid regime and the warden of its biggest prison, arresting and jailing Palestinians and imposing an inhumane blockade on the Gaza Strip. He went on to ask why that regime, the only nuclear weapons possessor in the Middle East, lectured the world on non-proliferation and Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme. The representative of the Israeli regime had hypocritically tried to abuse the Assembly by accusing others and stirring anxiety about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he said. It was a regime that favoured conflict and war over diplomacy, he added.