Reasons for Rohingya ‘Exodus’ Still Undetermined, Says Myanmar’s Vice-President, as Island Leaders Sound Climate Change Alarm
Rising nuclear tensions, the unfolding humanitarian situation in Myanmar and the impending threats posed by the effects of climate change were among pressing issues that world leaders emphasized today as they took the podium for the second day of the General Assembly’s annual general debate.
A day after the President of the United States characterized the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as an “embarrassment” to his country in an address to the Assembly, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said it would be a pity if that agreement was destroyed by “rogue newcomers to the world of politics”. Iran would not be the first country to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he declared, adding that his country would nevertheless “respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party”.
President Rouhani said that the ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric — filled with ridiculous, baseless allegations — uttered before the Assembly yesterday contradicted demands that the United Nations bring Governments together to combat war and terror. By violating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s commitments, the new United States Administration would only destroy its credibility and undermine international confidence, he said. “We were not deceived, nor did we cheat or deceive anyone,” he said, adding that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action could become a model for global interactions based on mutual constructive engagement.
Iran would never condone tyranny and would always defend the voiceless, he continued. “Moderation is the synergy of ideas and not the dance of swords,” he added. “We never threaten anyone, but we do not tolerate threats and intimidation.” Iran did not seek to restore its ancient empire, impose its official religion or export revolution through the force of arms, he said, stressing that his country was so confident in the depth of its culture, the truth of its faith and the longevity of its revolution that it would never seek to export any of them through the “heavy boots of soldiers”.
Concerning another nuclear-related issue, many leaders condemned the recent nuclear tests and missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, demanding that it halt its nuclear weapons programme. “North Korea is attempting to dismiss with a smirk the efforts towards disarmament we have assiduously undertaken over the years,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. He warned that the non-proliferation regime was about to suffer a serious blow from its most confident disrupter ever.
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa said “there are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction”, and the only viable solution was their total elimination. All Member States should reaffirm the inalienable rights of States to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he said. South Africa was the biggest producer of medical isotopes used to treat cancer and would continue its peaceful use of atoms to address socioeconomic development challenges. “It can no longer be acceptable that some few countries keep arsenals and stockpiles of nuclear weapons as part of their strategic defence and security doctrine, while expecting others to remain at their mercy,” he emphasized, warning that any accidental detonation would lead to a disaster of epic proportions.
President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine resolutely condemned Pyongyang’s actions, recalling that his country had given up its own nuclear arsenal, going on to become a global advocate for non-proliferation.
For his part, President Baron Divavesi Waqa of Nauru said Pyongyang’s threats against the Republic of Korea, Japan and the United States placed many small countries in the Pacific — including his own — potentially in the line of fire. That was unacceptable, he stressed, urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to stop launching missiles into the Pacific Ocean.
Vice-President U Henry Van Thio of Myanmar addressed the situation in his country’s Rakhine State, saying the Government was concerned about reports that the large numbers of Muslims crossing into Bangladesh continued unabated, adding that the reasons for that exodus had yet to be determined. While acknowledging the need for humanitarian assistance, he said a “great majority” of Muslims had opted to remain in their villages. “The situation in Rakhine is complex,” he said. “The challenges we face are significant.”
President Macky Sall of Senegal called for international action to end the atrocities against the Rohingya population, while Prime Minister Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al Sabah of Kuwait called upon Myanmar to stop persecuting the Muslim minority and to grant them citizenship.
Many leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change pact, with Donald Tusk, President of the European Council of the European Union, describing it as the cornerstone of global efforts to tackle climate change. He pledged that the European Union would swiftly and fully implement the accord, while working with all partners, especially vulnerable countries, on climate issues.
Miguel Vargas, the Dominican Republic’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said Hurricane Irma had caused material damage far exceeding his country’s gross domestic product (GDP). “It is not enough to send messages of solidarity or humanitarian aid, and it is absolutely not enough to sign agreements on climate change,” he emphasized, proposing the creation of a special fund to deal with natural catastrophes while fostering awareness, prevention and resilience strategies.
President Sauli Niinistö of Finland said the world was not acting fast enough to address climate change, pointing out that the Artic was warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and deserved heightened attention. “If we lose the Artic, we will lose the whole world,” he warned.
President Almazbek Atambaev of Kyrgyzstan described climate change as a particular menace to mountainous countries such as his own. The destruction of glaciers was of serious concern to Kyrgyzstan and its neighbours, he said, underlining that transition to sustainable development was a matter of survival. The protection of snow leopards was also critical as that species neared extinction.
President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire said climate change was a significant concern requiring swift action by all countries. Côte d’Ivoire would live up to the Paris Agreement in terms of energy, agriculture and environmental protection, he said, calling upon others to do the same and urging developed countries to fulfil their financial pledges.
At the outset of the meeting, Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, expressed the collective condolences of Member States to the Government and people of Mexico following the earthquake that struck that country yesterday.
Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexico’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, expressed appreciation for the outpouring of support following the devastating tragedy that claimed more than 200 lives and injured hundreds of people.
Also speaking were Heads of State and Government of Azerbaijan, Guyana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Panama, Rwanda, Paraguay, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Italy, Ecuador, Congo, Chile, Latvia, Namibia, Montenegro, Romania, Malawi, Madagascar, Swaziland, Libya and Fiji. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Morocco also delivered a statement.
Other speakers included the Vice-President of Argentina and the President of the State of Palestine.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 21 September, to continue its general debate.
SAULI NIINISTÖ, President of Finland, welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts to reform the United Nations into a more transparent, accountable and efficient Organization, as well as his focus on conflict prevention and peacekeeping. “Successful conflict prevention saves lives and financial resources,” he said, advocating the use of mediation to prevent conflict and human suffering. It was important to include women and children in peace processes. “Women, children and adolescents often pay the highest price in conflicts, but they can also help to pave a way out of the crisis,” he said. To that end, Finland had helped to establish a Nordic network of women mediators aimed at sustaining peace through the inclusive and meaningful participation of women in all phases of peace processes.
While conflict prevention was important for maintaining peace, efforts to strengthen peacekeeping must also continue, he said. Finland had increased its participation in United Nations police missions, including a specialized team on sexual and gender-based violence deployed to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). In such work, the United Nations must ensure that none of its staff were associated with misconduct in any form. “There must be zero tolerance with regards to sexual exploitation and abuse,” he stressed.
With conflicts raging, the number of refugees had mounted over the years, he said, with 157,000 lives lost globally in 2016 due to conflict, and refugees numbering almost 68 million today. Citing conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and eastern Ukraine as examples of untold human suffering, he said the international community had failed to maintain peace and security. The nuclear weapons programme in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a threat to global peace and must be stopped.
The Security Council’s cooperation on that issue had been successful, he said, and it was important that unity prevailed, as continued provocations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could not be tolerated. He expressed support for sanctions and called on others to do the same. A solution could only be sought through negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, calling the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons the foundation for nuclear disarmament. In a similar context, it was important that all parties honour the nuclear deal on Iran and he likewise welcomed recent talks on strategic stability between the United States and the Russian Federation.
He went on to highlight terrorism and violent extremism, the spread of disease, population growth and rapid urbanization as other trends threatening global security, noting that, if mismanaged, urbanization could increase rootlessness, hopelessness and even radicalization. On climate change, the world was not acting fast enough. The Artic in particular deserved heightened attention, as it was warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. “If we lose the Artic, we will lose the whole world,” he warned.
ALMAZBEK ATAMBAEV, President of Kyrgyzstan, recalled that his country had achieved sovereignty in 1991, after which time, it had enjoyed two popular revolutions, demonstrating that the only source of power in the country was its people. Like all other countries that had taken the road of sustainable development, Kyrgyzstan had committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Human welfare and prosperity were primary goals, despite the impact of the world economic crisis, falling oil prices and the imposition of sanctions. His country had embarked on major projects to improve infrastructure, achieve energy independence and create a stable energy sector. It also aimed to become a transit country and had met its social commitments.
Over the last five years, extreme poverty had fallen by 45 per cent, he said, and there had been system-wide efforts to address corruption. No longer were there elite or untouchable individuals in Kyrgyzstan, as had been the case 67 years ago. Today, the Government engaged in dialogue with all international partners and advocated national interests, including regional integration. Kyrgyzstan viewed borders as “doorways for friends”, he said, calling peace the most important achievement in recent years. The country was among the most free and stable in the Euro-Asian region and boasted a strong civil society. Its electoral model, which featured biometric systems, had been used during parliamentary elections in 2015 and last year’s referendum. With presidential elections scheduled for 15 October, he said the conduct of transparent and free polls was critical, as the new Government would continue on a course of development.
Further, he said Kyrgyzstan was elaborating a strategy for sustainable development through 2040, aiming to create jobs, ensure social well‑being, raise living standards and promote a parliamentary democracy with a strong civil society. During his recent visit, the Secretary-General had noted that Kyrgyzstan was not just a leader in the region in terms of democracy, but had become a pioneer in creating a digital economy. He expected Kyrgyzstan to become a prosperous, safe country as it approached 2040 with a sense of self-reliance and a high level of development.
Climate change was a particular menace to mountainous countries such as Kyrgyzstan, he said, and had impacted all sectors of the economy and increased the frequency of natural disasters, such as avalanches. The destruction of glaciers was another problem, both for Kyrgyzstan and its neighbours. Calling the transition to sustainable development a matter of survival, he said the protection of snow leopards was also critical, as they neared extinction. He expressed concern about divisions created by political and social expressions, noting that Kyrgyzstan had launched various projects to promote intercultural dialogue, including a recent conference on Islam.
Prosperity would hinge in part on the effective use of scarce water resources, he said, and regional disputes over water use must be settled through cooperation among the affected countries. The management of uranium stockpiles inherited from the former Soviet Union were a significant threat to the region, particularly as many of them were located near water resources. Terrorism and extremism must be addressed by the international community, particularly as they related to money-laundering and drug trafficking. He condemned recent violence in Myanmar and called upon all parties to engage in peaceful negotiations. More broadly, he urged States to uphold international conventions on non-proliferation, calling for urgent measures to reform the Security Council, taking into account the areas of importance for all States.
ILHAM HEYDAR OGLU ALIYEV, President of Azerbaijan, said a large percentage of his country was under occupation, with more than 1 million Azerbaijanis currently displaced. Security Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijan had gone unheard. Other international organizations had adopted similar decisions and resolutions, yet they had not been implemented by Armenia, which continued to ignore the international outcry, without punishment. That dynamic was an unacceptable double standard. Sanctions must be imposed on Armenia, which had done nothing to improve the situation and had blocked substantive negotiations. He questioned how such a corrupt, failed State could violate international law for so many years and ignore Council resolutions. The answer was the existence of a double standard.
He lamented that no sanctions had been imposed on Armenia, a policy that must be stopped. The aggression carried out by Armenia was not only an injustice, but also created the illusion that the country could continue its current actions. Armenia’s leaders should not forget that Azerbaijan would go to any length to protect its sovereignty. Urging the international community to stand against Armenian fascism and terror, he said Azerbaijan was committed to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, but at the same time, would defend its citizens, in line with the United Nations Charter, and if necessary, punish the aggressor as it had done in April 2016. Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity must be restored, he insisted.
Despite such challenges, Azerbaijan was an engaged member of the United Nations, he said. All fundamental freedoms were fully provided, including the freedom of speech, media freedom, freedom of assembly and religious freedom. Azerbaijan was a centre of multiculturalism, with all religions and ethnic groups living in peace and harmony. It recognized multi-ethnicity as an asset and had hosted several interreligious dialogues in recent years, including one in partnership with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. Further, the main goal of the Baku Process was aimed at strengthening dialogue and partnership between the Muslim world and Europe, he added.
On the economic front, he said Azerbaijan’s economy continued to grow exponentially, while unemployment was among the lowest levels in the world at 5 per cent. Poverty was also on the decline. In 2015, Azerbaijan had received a South‑South award recognizing its achievements related to the Millennium Development Goals. The country was also highly ranked on the human development scale, and exported not only agricultural goods, but also intellectual products, while its zero tolerance towards corruption and bribery made it attractive to investors. In 2015, Azerbaijan also had received a United Nations public service award.
He went on to note that without international support, Azerbaijan had built almost 100 new settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons suffering from Armenian occupation. Schools and hospitals were being built, and literacy was close to 100 per cent. Almost half of the population received a free annual medical check-up, courtesy of the State. With help from its international partners, Azerbaijan was also close to completing a gas corridor, among the world’s largest infrastructure projects. It was using its location to become a leading transport hub in the Euro-Asia region, and had built 11 new airports and millions of miles of highway. The country’s modern ship-building yard could manufacture all types of ships, he said, while emphasis had also been placed on modernizing its railroad infrastructure.
DAVID ARTHUR GRANGER, President of Guyana, said the world faced several humanitarian crises, including death from preventable disease, hunger, gender inequality, poverty, conflict and the refugee crisis. The Sustainable Development Goals represented the collective determination to address those challenges. However, they were being obstructed by human rights violations and the involuntary migration of people due to terrorism and warfare. “The challenge of the United Nations is to resolve to reinforce respect for the rights of citizens within the governance structures of our Member States,” he stated.
On climate change, he said the phenomenon was not a “fiction or the invention of a few extremists”. Small island States in the Caribbean and parts of North America had suffered devastating hurricanes, which Guyana had provided relief. Guyana also had signed and celebrated the Paris Agreement on climate change last year and renewed its commitment to its goals. It also had dedicated 360,000 hectares of rainforest in 1989, and 20 years later, entered an agreement with Norway to reduce emissions and forest degradation. Noting that his country was part of the “Guiana Shield”, the source of 15 per cent of the world’s freshwater reserves, he called on the United Nations to help protect that area as a global resource.
He emphasized that the “world is weary of war” and that peace must be humanity’s ceaseless quest. The United Nations was the paramount global instrument for peace and, while ensuring respect for international law through the International Court of Justice and the Security Council, must aim to resolve long‑standing inter-State conflicts. He expressed support for reforming the Security Council to give greater voice to developing countries. Expressing deep concern for peace and the right to development, he reiterated support for a two‑State solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the withdrawal of the economic embargo against Cuba.
Outlining the danger Guyana faced on its borders from territorial claims made by Venezuela, he said “disturbing” developments in that country had roused concerns over the privations of its people. He reiterated the call for a “zone of peace” to be created, stressing that Venezuela’s claim to Guyana’s territory threatened that prospect. Venezuela was more than four times the size of Guyana and claimed two thirds of its territory, including maritime space. Guyana depended on its territorial and maritime resources for development and poverty reduction. The border dispute had persisted since Guyana’s independence 51 years ago and despite an international Arbitral Tribunal settlement in 1899, which Venezuela denounced in 1962 in the Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization). “Peace will be at stake in our region if justice does not become ascendant,” he said, “not only within Venezuela, but also in respect to its border controversy with Guyana.”
Noting that four United Nations Secretaries-General had been “seized” of the matter, he called for a just and peaceful settlement in accordance with international law. Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and current Secretary‑General António Guterres had decided, under the 1966 Geneva Agreement, that the International Court of Justice would be the next means of settlement if significant progress was not made by the end of 2017. To that end, Guyana had worked with the Secretary-Generals’ Personal Representative, and would continue to seek support from the international community to ensure that Venezuela did not impede judicial settlement processes.
DRAGAN COVIĆ, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, underlined the importance of bringing the United Nations “closer to its chaotic surroundings”, and adapting it to anticipate the world’s emerging challenges. Emphasizing that the crisis in Syria continued unabated, he strongly condemned all forms of violence against that country’s civilian population. “Each Syrian child, woman and man, and each Syrian refugee, must have its dignity as a human being restored,” he stressed, calling for a peaceful political solution to that conflict through dialogue. Further, there could be no peace or prosperity for Israelis if the same was not provided for Palestinians — and vice versa. The absence of negotiations on that issue was disturbing, he said, stressing that both parties must fulfil their obligations based on Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Principles and the Arab Peace Initiative.
“Evil has always existed, throughout human history,” he said, noting that it was sometimes on the margin of communities. Terrorism was undoubtedly today’s greatest evil, with deep-rooted destructive forces. Emphasizing that there was no justification for terrorism, he called for joint and concerted efforts to combat that phenomenon, and pledged Bosnia and Herzegovina’s support to the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the activities of its Counter-Terrorism Committee. As a member of the global coalition to counter Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), it would continue to support efforts to liberate communities and help them recover. The eradication of terrorism and violent extremism also required investments in a spectrum of interconnected areas, from ending injustice and inequality to fighting poverty and the lack of freedom. Disarmament and non-proliferation were still prerequisites for global peace and security, he added, voicing strong condemnation of the recent nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and calling on that country to comply fully and unconditionally with relevant Security Council resolutions.
To implement the 17 Goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries must overcome various weaknesses, he said, stressing: “Strong political will and decisive practical steps in the right direction will not always be enough.” Implementation would require knowledge and norms that many Member States did not possess or that might add burdens to already encumbered State budgets. Assistance in formulating strategies and policies was critical, as was the transfer of technologies, the provision of financial resources and support in measuring progress. Those efforts must go along with countries taking full ownership of the process. “We expect the countries that have been a bit faster and more successful on this path to unselfishly share the best experiences and give recommendations, while the countries facing difficulties need to be willing and ready to accept new and different ways of resolving them,” he said.
Bosnia and Herzegovina unfortunately understood the high price of war, he continued. Preventive diplomacy was a tool that, when used at the right time, could help ensure that war was never repeated. The United Nations must be at the heart of all efforts to use preventive measures to resolve crises and prevent people from leaving their homes. Communities themselves must counter all the symptoms of trouble and conflicts, including by correcting social injustice and persevering in compromise. For its part, Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in several United Nations peacekeeping missions, including in South Sudan, Cyprus and Afghanistan. It was also working to speed reform at home, in the framework of the European family. Yet, “one people in Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot be happy and prosperous if the other two are not”. It was up to its people to adopt changes to the country’s electoral laws by the end of the year, in accordance with the ruling of its constitutional court, he said, expressing hope that the international community would provide support in that regard.
JUAN CARLOS VARELA RODRÍGUEZ, President of Panama, expressed condolences to Cuba, Mexico, United States and Caribbean nations suffering the effects of recent natural disasters. Noting that those events signalled the need for solidarity, he said the world stood at a juncture marked by terrorism, organized crime and the increase in forced migration caused by war, poverty and inequality. “Peace is a human construct” and the fruit of negotiations, he said, adding that the most appropriate way to confront the world’s challenges was by placing the human being at the heart of all decision-making. That had been the strategy of his own administration, he said, adding that democracy was more than just the simple exercise of casting a ballot. Indeed, elected leaders must understand that they bore responsibilities to their people.
Recalling the historic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States during a summit held in Panama in 2015, he said countries of the Americas must pursue the path of peace. Welcoming progress in Colombia in that regard, he called on that country to consolidate its national peace process. The region faced the threat of drug trafficking, he said, warning that “we cannot stand idly by” and allow that phenomenon to condemn people to poverty and challenge the authority of Governments. Stressing that Panama would not relent in that fight, he appealed to production and consumer countries to “come to our aid” and help eliminate the “blood money” that drove the phenomenon. Turning to Venezuela, he said it would be a serious miscalculation for that country’s Government to try to impose a single-party political model. Among other things, such an action would increase outward migration. Amid such challenges, he vowed to remain “on the front line” of efforts to strengthen unity among countries of the Americas and called on Panama’s neighbours to do to the same.
“We do not have time and space to waste in squabbling amongst ourselves,” he said as he turned to global challenges. Condemning all acts of terrorism, he called on the Security Council to strengthen measures to foster lasting peace in such places as Syria and Iraq, and condemned the irresponsible leadership of such Governments as that in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which sought to destabilize regions. He also voiced support for the Secretary-General’s reform efforts to create a United Nations that would more nimbly respond to the world’s peoples. Such reforms must centre around enhancing connections between nations, he said, stressing that multilateral cooperation was critical. Middle-income countries such as Panama were well placed to transfer technology to developing nations, he said, adding that Panama had been central to regional responses to recent natural disasters.
Among his national goals, he underscored the need to ensure that politics was seen as service. Panama was working to recuperate hundreds of millions of previously misappropriated dollars, and to reform corrupt systems. As a result, it had improved living standards without increasing a single tax. It was also making progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and was bound by a sense of fairness and equality. Governments were obliged to root out tax evasion, which fostered chasms of inequality, he said, calling on them to distribute wealth in a manner that supported the poorest and most vulnerable. The fight against corruption should not be measured by the number of people prosecuted by the judicial system, but rather, by the lives that were improved. “This planet has enough wealth for all of humankind to be able to live decently,” he concluded.
PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, described the relevance of the United Nations in setting the global agenda on key policy issues, from development to women’s rights and the role it played in humanitarian assistance. However, there was a sense that the United Nations had not yet met many needs and expectations. He commended the Secretary General for championing the important initiatives of United Nations reform, and the response to sexual exploitation and abuse.
Those steps were at the heart of the issues facing the international system, tackling the deficit of trust and accountability. To enable a decent life for all, the Organization must treat all people with impartiality and respect, and steward well the funds entrusted to it. The tools and mandates to address such challenges as climate change, peacebuilding, human equality and development were available, he explained, but what lacked were concrete actions to “get things done”. Institutional reform was not a one-off event; its essence was a mindset of constant striving to improve performance and delivery, as well as accountability for shortcomings and results.
Encouraged by the reform spirit that was taking root in the United Nations and the African Union alike, he said Rwanda was pleased to be associated with both, as such efforts would position those entities to work closely together. He drew attention to steps that could be taken on both sides to improve the quality of coordination and consultation. The African Union and the United Nations were already good partners in peacekeeping, and Rwanda was proud to have forces serving under both flags, he said. Rwanda shared the common objective of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063, and was working to enhance women’s empowerment.
He said that together with Canada and other stakeholders, Rwanda was raising awareness of the impact women could have on the ratification and implementation of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. That instrument was among the most important actions a country could take to tackle climate change and reaffirm commitment to the Paris Agreement. Fewer than 15 ratifications were needed for the Amendment to come into force in 2019. Indeed, the world faced serious challenges, but working together in a constructive spirit could enable a bright future for the generations to come, he concluded.
HORACIO MANUEL CARTES JARA, President of Paraguay, said a balance must be struck between the interests of all States in building a world order that developed relationships between sovereign nations rooted in trust and equal opportunity. The efficient work of the United Nations was crucial in that regard, he said, calling for a more inclusive and representative Security Council. Terrorism, drug trafficking and other challenges must be addressed collectively, and all stakeholders must do their part. Encouraging States — especially those bearing the greatest responsibility for the greenhouse-gas emissions — to do their part to implement the Paris Agreement and “save our planet”, he went on to outline a number of national environmental initiatives.
Since 2013, Paraguay had enjoyed full democracy and respected the rule of law, he said, and benefitted greatly from international investment. It also had joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) advisory committee, among other international bodies. “Paraguay now goes beyond our own borders,” he stressed, adding that regional integration had benefits for all stakeholders. Paraguay was working within the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) to boost regional economies, and globally, was committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, having implemented a number of national programmes to advance their implementation.
Recalling his administration’s three initial goals of poverty reduction, inclusive economic growth and allowing Paraguay to take its place in the world, he said the country had changed its national culture to reflect the principles of accountability and transparency. Strong emphasis had been placed on social investments and reducing inequality. The Government was also implementing flagship programmes related to cash transfers, food subsidies and education for poor, young people. It had granted a record $140 million in post-graduate scholarships for young people to study at 50 of the world’s most prestigious universities, many of whom returned to Paraguay to use their knowledge at home. The Government had also provided more than 30,000 new housing units for families that had been ignored by previous administrations, he said.
Reaffirming Paraguay’s commitment to peaceful conflict resolution, he said the prohibition of nuclear weapons was enshrined in its national laws. On the global level, nuclear disarmament should be carried out under a universal, legally-binding instrument. He condemned the “irrational”, “provocative” acts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, outlining his expectation that the Assembly would do the same. Terrorism must be combated through concerted global efforts, he said, voicing support for United Nations peacekeeping operations, the protection of human rights, and the objective and impartial work of the Human Rights Council. Expressing hope that Venezuela would find a peaceful solution to its crisis in the context of sovereignty, he expressed gratitude for Taiwan’s support to his country, and hope that the United Nations would identify the best way to facilitate Taiwan’s participation in its activities.
HASSAN ROUHANI, President of Iran, said that, four months ago, more than 41 million people — 73 per cent of eligible voters — had come to the polls and expressed confidence in his platform, which called for moderation, respect for human rights, prosperity and constructive engagement. Their votes exemplified the maturing of the electorate in a society that had enjoyed free and democratic governance for only four decades. Human rights, along with the quest for justice and Islamic values, were among the most pivotal demands of the Iranian people in more than 150 years of struggle. Moderation, the path chosen by the Iranian people, sought neither isolation nor hegemony. The path was one of a just and inclusive peace; not peace in one nation, and turmoil for others. Moderation was freedom and democracy in an inclusive manner. “Moderation is the synergy of ideas and not the dance of swords,” he said, stressing that Iran would never condone tyranny and would always defend the voiceless. “We never threaten anyone; but we do not tolerate threats and intimidation,” he said.
The progress of all nations was intertwined, he said, and as such, it was unacceptable that a rogue and racist regime should be permitted to trample on the rights of Palestinians, while Muslims elsewhere lived in misery. Throughout history, Iran had been a bastion of tolerance for various religions and ethnicities. Iran was on the front lines of fighting terrorism and religious extremism in the Middle East, based on ethical, humanitarian and strategic reasons. It did not seek to restore its ancient empire, impose its official religion or export revolution through the force of arms. Iran was so confident in the depth of its culture, the truth of its faith and the longevity of its revolution that it would never seek to export any of them through the “heavy boots of soldiers”.
He said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the result of two years of intense multilateral negotiations, had been overwhelmingly applauded by the international community and endorsed by the Security Council. It could become a model for global interactions based on mutual constructive engagement. Iran had opened its doors to engagement and entered into other agreements with advanced countries in both the East and the West. Yet, some had deprived themselves of that opportunity and had instead imposed sanctions. “We were not deceived, nor did we cheat or deceive anyone,” he stressed. While Iran had continuously rejected nuclear weapons, it was reprehensible that the Zionist regime threatening the region with its nuclear arsenal had the audacity to preach to peaceful nations.
Iran would not be the first country to violate the Plan of Action, he declared, but it would “respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party”. It would be a pity if the agreement was destroyed by “rogue newcomers to the world of politics”. By violating its commitments, the new United States Administration only destroyed its credibility and undermined international confidence. The ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric, filled with ridiculous baseless allegations, uttered before the Assembly yesterday contradicted demands that the United Nations bring Governments together to combat war and terror.
Iran’s defence capabilities were solely defensive, he said, used to prevent “adventurist tendencies of irrational aspirants”. Extremist violence in the region had been exacerbated by military interventions of outside actors — the same Powers attempting to sell their weapons to Governments, while accusing Iran of fomenting instability. Foreign intervention and the imposition of “alien wishes” on the region’s people would only widen and deepen crises. The United States should explain to its people why, instead of contributing to peace and security, it had only brought war, misery, poverty and the rise of terrorism and extremism. In sum, he said his Government would continue to enhance the country’s entrepreneurial environment, protect intellectual property rights, improve corporate governance and engage in a robust campaign against money-laundering.
RUMEN RADEV, President of Bulgaria, said outbreaks of violence devastated local economies, triggered large movements of refugees and migrants, caused massive spread of diseases, famine and immense human suffering. The root causes of conflict must be addressed in a more systemic way through ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, improving economic situations and promoting social inclusion. Protracted conflicts required a holistic United Nations response encompassing preventive diplomacy, mediation, peacebuilding and effective special political missions.
Recalling that the Organization’s peace and security architecture had recently been through three review processes, he said that, together with the 2030 Agenda, they provided a solid foundation for achieving peace and prosperity. Voicing support for a “surge in diplomacy for peace” that prioritized prevention in the United Nations work, he said such efforts must also address the root causes of forced displacement by bringing together humanitarian, development and peacebuilding. The international community should not be distracted from the urgent need to revive the Middle East peace process, he said, calling the two-State solution the realistic, just and lasting path to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A solution that fulfilled the aspirations of both sides could only be achieved through direct negotiations with no conditions and in conformity with relevant international obligations.
In Syria, he said a credible political transition was essential for preserving the country’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity. A political dialogue under United Nations auspices was the only way to improve Syria’s security situation and resolve its humanitarian crisis. Citing the volatile situation in eastern Ukraine as another source of deep concern, he called for the swift and full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which had no viable alternative. Bulgaria was fully committed to the peace and stabilization process in Afghanistan, he said, reiterating its commitment to the Nuclear Non‑Proliferation Treaty.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was of “historic significance”, he said, and its implementation was critical for regional and global stability. He condemned the repeated nuclear tests and missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Urging that country to end its nuclear and ballistic‑missile programmes in a complete, irreversible and verifiable manner and to engage in dialogue with the international community, he also called for a “balanced approach” to addressing migration that respected international humanitarian and human rights law and effective border management and readmission. States had both rights and responsibilities in that regard, and the effective management of the European Union’s external border — allowing for the smooth functioning and free movement within the bloc — was a priority for Bulgaria.
Calling climate change “one of the biggest challenges of our time”, he expressed Bulgaria’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and a universal approach to its implementation. Additionally, Bulgaria served as co-Chair of the Group of Friends of Children and the Sustainable Development Goals and as President of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for 2017-2018. It was putting forward its candidacy for membership on the Human Rights Council for the period 2019‑2021.
ALASSANE OUATTARA, President of Côte d’Ivoire, said his country’s election to the Security Council for the 2018-19 period would be an opportunity to share its experience on how to emerge from a crisis with effective cooperation from the United Nations. The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was a rare success and should encourage the development of other initiatives to support peace. Côte d’Ivoire would promote fair and pragmatic compromises while on the Council, he said, urging the international community to create a more balanced development model.
While the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy had been strengthened since 2001, and encouraging operations had been carried out in the Middle East and Africa, the world had not found an adequate response to terrorism. Actions would be in vain if Africa continued to be the “underbelly” of the anti-terrorist struggle, he said, pressing Governments to fulfil their pledges to support the G-5 Sahel countries [Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger]. Côte d’Ivoire would continue to support those countries while on the Council, he said, stressing that “without stability, there cannot be any development”.
On climate change, a significant concern that required swift action from all countries, he said Côte d’Ivoire would live up to the Paris Agreement through developments in energy, agriculture and environmental protection. He called on others to do likewise, urging developed countries to fulfil their financial pledges. He highlighted the plight of small islands in that regard, calling climate change a threat to international peace and security, and expressing support for a global environment pact recently proposed by France.
Turning to peace and security, he said Côte d’Ivoire would do its utmost during its Council term to address nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He encouraged the international community to show restraint and enter into dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to create the conditions for lasting de-escalation. Also, efforts to combat irregular migration, human trafficking and the migrant smuggling had not been adequately addressed. He urged developed countries to mobilize resources and support developing countries in providing young people with employment, while origin countries must work to close smuggling networks. To that end, he said the war in Libya must end. For its part, Côte d’Ivoire had focused on awareness and prevention, aid provision and efforts to dismantle smuggling networks.
On the economic front, he said Côte d’Ivoire had achieved an average 9 per cent growth rate thanks to a successful microeconomic policy, hard work by its people, an improved business environment and major investments. The 2016‑2020 national development plan aimed to distribute the “fruits” of such growth fairly and outlined bold social reforms to transform the country. He called on all States and civil society organizations to ensure that international mobilization for the Sustainable Development Goals did not weaken, reiterating that developed countries must live up to their financing commitments, as agreed in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda in 2015. As terrorism, global warming and nuclear tensions had weakened the collective security system, the international community must agree on how to modernize to effectively respond to threats. The greatest importance should be placed on conflict prevention, and he welcomed the Joint United Nations-African Union Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security in that regard.
PETRO POROSHENKO, President of Ukraine, said transnational terrorism and use of force, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights violations and environmental fragility were only a few of today’s global challenges. Now was the time to act, and although only a narrow window of opportunity existed, and the United Nations should be at the forefront of that process. Ukraine had always advocated for reform of the United Nations to respond to global challenges in a timely and adequate fashion. He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s robust reform agenda, especially for the Security Council.
He said Ukraine could not have agreed more with the call for the universal respect of sovereignty, as expressed in the General Assembly Hall yesterday. The United Nations was founded on the principles of peace and security, based on sovereignty and respect for borders. Yet, those principles had been flagrantly violated by a permanent Security Council member against his country. Ukraine had suffered from conflict for the last three years, resulting in the deaths of 10,000 people and the occupation of 7 per cent of its territory, while 20 per cent of its economy had been seized, destroyed or stolen. The most horrific action was the Kremlin’s tactic to increase human suffering, with anyone who disagreed losing their freedom, or even their lives. Crimean Tatars were being arrested for posts on social networks or simply displaying the Ukrainian flag on their property.
The Russian Federation had violated Security Council resolutions on human rights and ignored requests from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for full access to the occupied parts of Crimea. The situation required a proper response from the international community, which must keep a close eye on Crimea to avoid a new genocide against Crimean Tatars. That the General Assembly had recognized the Russian Federation as an occupying Power proved the international community was “on the right track”. The militarization of Crimea had affected the entire region and beyond, and he condemned the military exercises taking place there. Russian occupying troops continued to violate ceasefires, while Ukrainians were being taken hostage or imprisoned for their opposition to the occupation. He questioned whether stealing land, kidnapping, conduct of a hidden war, downing of civilian aircraft and spreading of lies was the behaviour to be expected from a permanent Council member.
He said the Russian Federation was not contributing to international security, but was rather its biggest threat, as it was in conflict with almost all its neighbours and had undermined every effort to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty. The Russian Federation’s latest peacekeeping proposal aimed only at legalizing its proxies and freezing the conflict. Stressing that any peacekeeping mission under United Nations auspices must be impartial and could not include personnel from the aggressor country, he recalled that the world had been stunned three years ago by the blowing up of flight MH17 in the skies over Donbass. Ukraine was determined to bring justice to the perpetrators of that mass murder, he said, noting that two investigations had found that the Russian Federation was behind that tragedy.
For decades, Ukraine had been a resolute contributor to global peace and security, he said, notably by giving up its nuclear arsenal. An advocate for non‑proliferation, Ukraine resolutely condemned the recent actions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, also expressing deep concern over the conflict in Syria and the Russian Federation’s use of occupied Crimea as a military outpost for the projection of power in Syria. Concerned by the numerous, unresolved conflicts in Africa, he expressed Ukraine’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda and implementation of the Paris Agreement.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the State of Palestine, said 24 years had passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords, an interim agreement that set a five-year period for ending the Israeli occupation. Today, he asked what was left of that hope. Israel continued to pursue its settlements, breaching all international conventions and resolutions on the question of Palestine. The United Nations bore a legal, moral and humanitarian obligation to end the occupation and enable Palestinians to live in freedom in their independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital along the 4 June 1967 borders. Doing so would deprive terrorist groups of a rallying cry that they exploited to promote their repugnant ideas.
Palestine had explored every avenue and exerted every effort to achieve peace with Israel, he said, having adopted the Arab Peace Initiative, which aimed to resolve the conflict by recognizing and normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967. Israel had rejected that effort, and, similarly, the 2003 Quartet road map for peace, and the more recent French proposal that had led to the Paris Conference which Israel boycotted. Palestine had called on Israel to respect the historic and legal status quo of the holy sites in East Jerusalem, but that Government had repeatedly attempted to change the historic status quo of Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Despite the occupation, Palestine had managed to build its State intuitions, which had been recognized by a majority of Member States.
“The two-State solution is today in jeopardy,” he said. Palestine had called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and prosecute Israeli officials involved in settlement activities, and would continue to pursue its accession to international conventions, protocols and organizations. Palestine had upheld its responsibilities towards its people in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly affirming that “Gaza will not be the Palestinian State” and that “there can be no Palestinian State without Gaza”. He expressed gratitude for the agreement reached in Cairo aimed at nullifying measures taken by Hamas following division of the area and formation of a government.
To save the two-State solution, he urged the United Nations to help end the Israeli occupation within a set timeframe and implement the Arab Peace Initiative. It should work to end all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; ensure international protection of the land and people of the State of Palestine in line with resolutions 605 (1987), 672 (1990), 673 (1990) and 904 (1994); and demand that Israel commit to the 1967 borders as the basis for the two-State solution. He similarly urged Member States that recognized Israel to proclaim that their recognition was based on the 1967 borders, and thus align themselves with international resolutions.
States should also end their involvement and support to the illegal Israeli colonial regime in the occupied State of Palestine, he said, pressing those that had not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so, in fulfilment of the principle of equality. For its part, the Security Council should approve the State of Palestine’s application for full United Nations membership, while the broader international community should continue providing economic and financial support to Palestinians to achieve self-reliance, as well as support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
DONALD TUSK, President of the European Council of the European Union, said the United Nations was the best tool available to address today’s conflicts, famine, forced displacement, terrorism and the return of nuclear tensions. It was imperative that the United Nations rose to those challenges and the bloc expected it to become a more energetic, less bureaucratic Organization that acted with clarity and purpose in all its actions. The European Union considered the reform proposals as the bare minimum, he said, adding: “What is needed is more ambition, not less.”
Indeed, the United Nations remained a vital forum for debate, even if it had declined in popular esteem in recent years, he said, pointing to the Security Council’s 11 September action to sanction the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a sign of its capacity for real leadership and unity. Still, that action was inadequate, as no country should be allowed to undermine the global non-proliferation regime or threaten peaceful countries. He called for peaceful denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, encouraging all concerned to uphold the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran as a multilateral deal that delivered more security for all.
Emphasizing that the European Union wanted to work in partnership with African countries on challenges ranging from security and counter-terrorism, to economic growth and job creation, he said the bloc was already cooperating with United Nations missions on peacekeeping and conflict prevention in Mali, the Central African Republic and other conflict zones, while doing its best to alleviate the humanitarian crisis affecting more than 20 million people in the Lake Chad Basin, South Sudan and Somalia. Still, more must be done and now was the time to “wake up” to those escalating situations before it was too late.
To address the global refugee crisis, the European Union continued to receive people in need of protection and was supporting the United Nations process to develop the Global Compact on Refugees. More engagement was needed in terms of funds for humanitarian assistance and resettlement options for the displaced. At the same time, more efforts must be made to crack down on human smugglers. Repeated terrorist attacks in Europe and beyond required greater efforts by the United Nations to address counter-radicalization. He called on the major online companies to develop, as a priority, the means for automatic deletion of extremist content immediately after posting.
The Paris Agreement was the cornerstone of global efforts to tackle climate change, he said, which the European Union would implement swiftly and fully. The bloc would also work with all partners, particularly vulnerable countries, on climate issues, and all those that shared the belief that the Agreement was necessary to protect the planet. While the global economy and trade were expanding, security tensions were rising and global cooperation was being questioned. Making international action robust, credible and transformative was a challenge, he said, stressing that the European Union would never give up working with and within the United Nations until that challenge was met.
MARK RUTTE, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said recent years had been marked by terrorist attacks, destructive floods, conflict and suffering in Myanmar, Syria, Central African Republic and Yemen. More people were fleeing their homes due to violence, poverty, and nuclear issues were once again a major concern. Nevertheless, the United Nations offered proof that progress was possible. “Here, in this inviolable zone, thousands of people from every continent work together to foster peace, justice and development, in a world governed by international law,” he said. “Sometimes it is three steps forward and two steps back, but if you take the long view, you can see clear progress.”
Outlining progress over the decades, he said extreme poverty and maternal mortality had been halved, child mortality nearly halved, and 90 per cent of children in developing countries now received a primary education. The United Nations had played a crucial role in those achievements, and faith in the Organization remained strong among the world’s citizens. “We must not let them down,” he stressed. The Netherlands and its Kingdom partners, Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten, attached great importance to the United Nations and could not exist without both strong multilateral institutions and an effective international legal order. Stressing that justice must be done for those who had perished on flight MH17 in 2014, he said the next step — the prosecution and trial of those responsible — had been agreed and would take place in the Netherlands.
The problems of climate change, migration, food security, terrorism and cybercrime were international in nature, he said, stressing that “no single country can tackle them in isolation”. Instead of becoming more inward-looking, nations should take a step outwards. Beginning in January 2018, the Netherlands would take its seat on the Security Council, having shared its term with Italy. “This shared arrangement is a good example of European partnership,” he said, calling for more such cooperation. On the Council, the Netherlands would pursue the priorities of a strong United Nations in a secure and sustainable world, working in a transparent way to achieve them.
Expressing support for United Nations reform, he called on all Member States to work towards a more effective and efficient Organization with better cooperation between its various agencies. On the issue of security, he said the key word was “prevention”, which deserved more attention at the early stages of conflict. That was already happening in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), in which the Netherlands participated, where intelligence was being used to carry out long-range reconnaissance missions. “This way we can anticipate conflict, instead of waiting for it to come our way,” he said, adding that MINUSMA could be a model for future missions.
Turning to counter-terrorism, he said the United Nations was the prime forum for global norm-setting and international cooperation on that issue. Such challenges tied in with the Netherland’s priority focus on sustainability. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals preceded all other issues as the “ultimate prevention agenda”, addressing the causes of instability and conflict. Investing in human dignity, poverty eradication, climate resilience and economic and social progress would reduce the incidence of conflict. “This Hall, this building, all of you, represent one of the greatest achievements of mankind,” he said, noting that the United Nations bore a heavy responsibility in today’s turbulent times. “The United Nations needs to prove its worth more than ever.”
SHINZO ABE, Prime Minister of Japan, said the two recent missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been programmed to fly over Japan. The gravity of that threat was unprecedented and indisputably a matter of urgency. “North Korea is attempting to dismiss with a smirk the efforts towards disarmament we have assiduously undertaken over the years,” he said, adding that the non‑proliferation regime was about to suffer a serious blow from its most confident disrupter ever. The recent crisis was of an altogether different dimension. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear weapons either were, or were on the verge, of becoming hydrogen bombs and their means of delivery would sooner or later be intercontinental ballistic missiles.
He said it was not a lack of dialogue that had given rise to the current situation. Dialogue had dissuaded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from pursuing its nuclear ambitions twice thus far, having saved the world from crises. However, Pyongyang had never intended to abandon its nuclear ambitions, which had become apparent to all. It had defrauded the United States, Republic of Korea and Japan of assistance and betrayed the good faith of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization.
Since 1994, the international community had continued its efforts towards dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, with great perseverance, first through the Agreed Framework, and later, the Six-Party Talks. However, the international community had learned that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had no intention of abandoning its nuclear or missile development. Dialogue had instead been used as the best means of deceiving the international community and buying time. In 1994, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had no nuclear weapons and its ballistic missile technology was far from mature. Yet, Pyongyang was now working to attain hydrogen bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Repeated attempts to resolve issues through dialogue had come to naught, he said, questioning what hope of success remained if the same failure was repeated a third time. “We must make North Korea abandon all nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner,” he stressed, adding that pressure was needed, not dialogue.
Japan would face up to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and missile threat through the Japan-United States alliance, he said, adding: “We consistently support the stance of the United States that ‘all options are on the table’.” His country appreciated the Security Council’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2375 (2017), which imposed strict sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and intended to intensify pressure to force that country to undertake a fundamental change on its path.
ANTÓNIO LUÍS SANTOS DA COSTA, Prime Minister of Portugal, commended the Secretary-General’s proposals to reform the United Nations into a stronger, more nimble Organization able to respond to the world’s increasingly complex challenges. Reforms to the peace and security architecture should be given the highest priority. To succeed, reforms must focus on greater integration and synergies among United Nations organizations. For example, consolidating a culture of conflict prevention required action “across the board” with an integrated vision of the three pillars of peace, human rights and sustainable development. There was also a need for closer institutional cooperation between the Security Council and the General Assembly.
Efforts to ensure greater representation in the Security Council must also continue, he said, stressing: “The African continent cannot be denied a permanent presence, and Brazil and India are also two inescapable examples.” While partnerships among States are important, the United Nations must also work with civil society, international financial institutions and public and private entities, he said, citing the Assembly’s recent adoption of a resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language Speaking Countries. The Secretary-General’s focus on diplomacy should also guide the international response to conflicts and crises. Unity among Member States in defending laws and promoting security would enable the world “to move towards a fairer international order” and find solutions to tensions in Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For its part, Portugal had prioritized its participation in peacekeeping and institution-building within the United Nations framework, he said. As a European country with deep ties to Africa, it had focused on building partnerships between the continents, with the fifth European Union-African Union summit to be held in November in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. It had reinforced its presence in multilateral missions in the Sahel, Central Africa and in MINUSMA, and cooperated with African countries in promoting maritime security, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea.
As peace should be built on respect for rights and dignity, he said civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights were inseparable. “They apply universally and do not depend on place, history or the religious or civilizational matrix of each society,” he said, underscoring the world’s moral obligation to protect and promote the rights of migrants and citing Portugal’s programme guaranteeing young Syrians access to higher education in that context.
On climate change, he said Portugal would comply with the European Union’s voluntary commitment to reduce emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030, and contribute to the Green Climate Fund. While all 17 Sustainable Development Goals were crucial, Goal 14 on “Life Below Water” was particularly “close to the heart” given Portugal’s long history in maritime trade. Despite such challenges, Portugal was confident that they would be resolved by setting clear goals and establishing partnerships. “Multilateralism is the only framework for the defence for the common good of humanity and the collective promotion of peace, security and development,” he asserted.
THERESA MAY, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said today’s meeting was taking place while the world faced challenges “that test who we are”. Many of those — such as the terrorist threat that had struck her country five times this year — did not recognize international boundaries. Climate change was degrading and depleting the planet, and millions were fleeing their homes in search of a better life. There were massive inequalities around the world and weaknesses in the global trading system, both of which were pushing some countries towards protectionism. As the global system struggled to adapt, some countries were deliberately flouting international rules, she said, citing the unforgivable use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, and the proliferation and threat of nuclear weapons use by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Calling on countries to defend the international order and the values of fairness, justice and human rights underpinning the multilateral system — including through agreements such as the Paris Accord and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — she said the international system with the United Nations at its heart was the “amplifying force” for those values.
Indeed, “we have to strive harder” to defend and reform the United Nations, she said, and those who flouted the rules and spirit of the Organization must be held to account. Noting that the United Kingdom had long supported the United Nations, she nevertheless said the Organization suffered from a gap between its purposes and their delivery. Member States must embark on the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda, she said, calling for better cooperation, improved gender equality and reduced competition on the ground. As an outward-looking, “global Britain” — and the world’s second largest donor — the United Kingdom would continue to support the Organization. However, it would now set aside 30 per cent of its funding, to be paid only to those parts of the United Nations that achieved required results.
In the year ahead, the Organization must ensure that global agreements were applied in practice, she said. On migration, the proposed Global Compact must provide for safe, orderly, well-managed and legal migration, or risk pushing people into modern-day slavery. Stakeholders must work harder to address the drivers of that phenomenon, she said, noting that the same was true of terrorism. When such attacks struck London and Manchester this year, the United Kingdom had carried on. “The terrorists did not win, for we will never let anyone destroy our way of life,” she stressed. But, defiance alone was not enough. Noting that, for the first time, Governments and industry had come together to “reclaim the Internet from those who would do us harm”, she said the ideologies underpinning terrorism must also be addressed.
In that regard, she asked the Secretary-General to make the fight against terrorism a core part of his agenda by proclaiming it the theme of next year’s General Assembly session. Meanwhile, States must strike a balance between protecting their people and protecting their freedom. In northern “Burma”, she called on authorities to end the violence there and implement the recommendations of the advisory commission headed by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. States bore critical responsibilities that the United Nations could not take on alone. Instability and conflict were often driven by States acting through proxies, she said, citing the examples of countries supporting Hizbullah and “so-called separatists” in Ukraine, or providing tacit support to criminal groups that launched cyberattacks. The United Kingdom would remain steadfast to ensure the safety and security of its allies, she said.
Turning to Syria, she said that, while all nations must stand together in the face of confirmed cases of chemical weapons use, the United Kingdom took seriously its responsibility as a permanent Security Council member. Recalling that it had not used its veto in a generation, she said one other permanent member had repeatedly employed it to prevent action against a despicable regime. Today, a more immediate global danger had emerged in the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, whose contempt for its neighbours and the rules of international peace and security were clear. Pyongyang had continued its violations despite the Council’s unity on the matter and adoption last week of a resolution creating the largest sanctions package in history. Indeed, it would continue to do so unless Council members were prepared to take all necessary measures to tackle that threat. She called on all States to exert pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and to demonstrate that their resolve to uphold international law was stronger than Pyongyang’s resolve to violate it.
PAOLO GENTILONI SILVERI, Prime Minister of Italy, said globalization’s socioeconomic effects had triggered hardship and inequalities that in turn had resulted in major instability in the international geopolitical framework. No country was immune from pressing concerns, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s provocations, terrorism and the desperation of migrants and refugees. Indeed, the world must work together to overcome those challenges, building democratic, pluralistic and inclusive societies open to diversity, which would lead to peace and stability.
The European Union, he said, had tackled some of the greatest challenges since the post-war period and a new impetus had been inspired by multilateralism and the rule of law. On migration, Italy’s belief in a compassionate response was reflected in its operations to rescue and receive migrants. A global response was now needed to find long-term solutions. For its part, Italy was taking a number of steps, including promoting partnerships with African countries, he said, adding that by investing in the continent, the root causes of migration could be addressed. Going forward, efforts must be intensified to, among other things, protect vulnerable migrants and prevent and counter human trafficking.
Citing the fight against terrorism and violent extremism as another shared concern, he said more must be done to crush that scourge. Highlighting Italy’s active role in the global coalition against Da’esh, he emphasized the need for a multidimensional force and international cooperation to end terrorism on the ground and online. Because no country could tackle terrorism alone, such efforts must be based on cooperation between States and regional stakeholders.
Turning to a range of pressing concerns, he said Italy supported United Nations efforts in Libya, with a view to stabilizing the current situation there. Regarding Syria, he said the only road to a lasting solution to the Syrian conflict could be a realistic and credible political process. Highlighting Italy’s involvement in the Sahel region, he said the Group of Five for the Sahel (Sahel G-5) joint force was essential to fight terrorism and combat trafficking. He also expressed concern for ongoing situations on the Horn of Africa, in Venezuela and on the Korean Peninsula. With regard to the Iranian nuclear file, the international community should ensure that the plan of action remained a success story, he said, noting with satisfaction that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had confirmed Iran’s continued fulfilment of commitments.
To address such diverse crises, he said, inclusive, sustainable development guided by the 2030 Agenda outlined a common pathway forward. Italy was committed to strengthening cohesiveness, reducing inequalities and safeguarding the environment through supporting countries on that path. The same strong commitment was needed to fight against climate change consequences, he continued. When addressed together, he concluded, the crises and challenges of today could be overcome and those of the future could be prevented.
LENIN MORENO GARCÉS, President of Ecuador, said much remained to be done for the 1 billion people in the world living with disabilities. Describing himself as an optimist, he said political will was required in that regard. Without a doubt, a responsible Government must care for, inspire, support and give thanks to its citizens. Emphasizing the importance of caring for people throughout their life cycle, and of eradicating all forms of violence, he said the mistreatment, abuse and killing of women and girls must not be allowed.
The world was going through a difficult time characterized by many crises, including a potential nuclear confrontation, he said, stressing that a commitment must be made to building peace. It was difficult to understand why arms traffickers were prosecuted but arms producers were not. Resources that could be spent on sustainable development were being wasted on war instead. Referring to the blockade on Cuba, he underlined the importance of respecting the sovereignty of States and the principle of non-intervention. Ecuador resolutely supported the peace talks in Colombia and welcomed the recent Quito temporary ceasefire agreement between that country’s Government and the National Liberation Army group, he said.
Alarming inequality in the world was another challenge, he said, calling for measures to combat tax avoidance and evasion. A culture of transparency must be fostered, he added, noting that no public official in Ecuador could keep assets in tax shelters. As President of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Ecuador was pushing for fair tax action, including the creation of an intergovernmental body on tax cooperation within the United Nations.
Expressing solidarity with those affected by the devastation caused by climatic phenomena, he said it was a common responsibility to combat climate change. “We have common but differentiated responsibilities,” he noted, emphasizing that those who polluted most must assume greater responsibility. Underlining his country’s initiative to halt deforestation in the Amazon region, he said more must be made of indigenous knowledge.
Turning to the migration crisis, he said Ecuador supported free mobility and universal citizenship, stressing that free movement could not be limited to goods and capital and that closing borders was never a solution. He recalled that when forming his Government, he had called for a national dialogue to build democracy and create space for a new generation of leaders. A new society based on the common good could and must be promoted, he emphasized, adding that a fair international system and a commitment to eradicating poverty and inequality would lead to a world in which everyone lived in dignity.
MARTA GABRIELA MICHETTI ILLIA, Vice-President of Argentina, voiced solidarity with the people of Mexico following its recent earthquake, stressing: “The environment and the forces of nature are speaking to us.” Her country was moving towards zero poverty and had just presented its first voluntary national review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Noting that Argentina would host the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in November, she said the country also placed an emphasis on education and the creation of decent jobs. The promotion and protection of human rights was another important State policy. Argentina had worked hand-in-hand with its regional neighbours to pursue that goal and it had presented its candidacy for Human Rights Council membership for the period 2019‑2021.
Argentina was also implementing its first national action plan against gender discrimination aimed at the protection of women’s rights, she said. As well, an agency focused on developing policy for persons with disabilities had just been created, with an aim to change the “still-distorted view” that persisted for that population. Her country’s fight against drug trafficking was another part of its national agenda, she said, voicing support for the establishment of an international court to address organized crime. Expressing regret over the situation being faced by the people of Venezuela, she recalled that Latin American Heads of State had recently joined together to condemn that country’s break with democracy. “It is with pain that I have to say these words about a kindred country,” she said, calling for credible, good-faith negotiations to peacefully re-establish democracy in Venezuela.
Condemning terrorism in all its forms, she reiterated her country’s commitment to bringing to justice all those who had participated in the financing, preparation or carrying out of such attacks. She also called on the international community to support Argentina’s request for Iran’s cooperation on the ongoing investigation into the 1994 attack against the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina. Noting that her country would host the next World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting and that it would take up the presidency of the “Group of 20” in 2018, she expressed faith in the multilateral trading system, urging that it be implemented in such a way that reached everyone.
Argentina was expanding its profile as a party for investment, initiating a “focused regionalism” with an emphasis on small- and medium-sized enterprises, she said, also outlining the country’s enhanced links with the European Union, Japan, New Zealand and other nations. She also pledged Argentina’s continued support for United Nations peacekeeping operations and emphasized its prioritization of environmental concerns, affirming Argentina’s strong support for the Paris Agreement and urging further progress in the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In addition, she emphasized her country’s sovereignty over the Malvinas*, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces, expressing hope that the “new phase” in Argentina’s relationship with the United Kingdom would help convince the latter to enter into negotiations and resolve that protracted dispute.
DENIS SASSOU NGUESSO, President of Congo, expressing condolences to the people and Government of Mexico, noted the many challenges facing the international community, including the spread of terrorism, increased tension on the Korean Peninsula, the situation in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and crises in Africa and elsewhere. Nothing constructive or sustainable would emerge without peace. On 19 October, Congo would host the seventh summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region as well as the high-level meeting of the follow-up mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region, which were opportunities to consider ways and means to resolve crises in Africa, he said.
The peace process in the Central African Republic was moving forward apace, with implementation of a road map for peace and reconciliation expected to give new impetus for stability, he said. The quest to resolve the crisis in Libya was moving in the right direction, with the 9 September meeting in Brazzaville of the African Union high-level committee on that country. His country would work unstintingly for peace in Libya and the international community must support initiatives in that regard.
Poverty would remain a global challenge until the cycle of dependency and the dramatic impact of climate change were halted, he said. There must be a global response based on joined-up action. Global stability depended on a new paradigm and greater solidarity. Underscoring the connection between migration and climate change, he said action must be taken to stem the resulting exodus and to save the lives of thousands of Africans.
Climate change was a truly global challenge and the commitments made in the Paris Agreement must be honoured, he continued. It fell on the collective consciousness of humankind to express compassion and solidarity with those who had fallen victim to the harmful consequences of climate change, as demonstrated by Hurricane Irma as well as flooding and landslides in Asia and several African countries, particularly Sierra Leone. He called on the international community to support Congo’s initiative to establish the Congo Basin Blue Fund to protect the world’s second largest “green lung” after the Amazon.
The proliferation of counterfeit medicines was a growing threat, particularly in developing countries, he said. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), such medicine was responsible for 800,000 deaths every year. Ten per cent of the world’s medicines, and as much as 60 per cent of medicines in some parts of Africa, were thought to be counterfeit. Vigorous action must be taken at the General Assembly to elaborate a global strategy to combat that threat, he said, calling for an unwavering commitment by all countries to focus on that issue and to provide substantial financial resources to address it.
MICHELLE BACHELET JERIA, President of Chile, expressed her condolences to the families of the victims of the earthquake in Mexico and the hurricanes impacting the Caribbean. “We are in a key turning point in humanity’s history,” she said, adding that it was time to take responsibility for climate change and “dare to change our productive models”. Chile was a country which had known pain but also hope. Chile was a full part of the world and its local challenges were similar to what people faced worldwide. It was possible to reverse past decisions and overcome inertia.
The biggest strength of the 2030 Agenda was that all the people of the world must implement it together, she continued, adding that “there is no space for denial” on climate change. Chile had established a green tax on carbon emissions in its energy sector and had moved from 6.3 to 17 per cent renewable energy. It was also active in pushing forth ocean initiatives. Some 8 million tons of plastic reached the sea each year, enormously impacting the world’s oceans. Prohibiting the use of plastic bags in coastal cities was critical to protecting the ocean. Outlining various initiatives Chile had undertaken to protect its biodiversity, she said that sustainable development was not “an impossible dream to finance”.
Describing some challenges currently facing her country, both in the political and business world, she underscored efforts which were particularly focused on making both sectors more inclusive, including through the establishment of a quota to include women in government. Chile had made decisive progress in extending human rights to vulnerable groups, including by decriminalizing abortion in some cases. It also continued to reform the education system. “The idea is that there is no progress at the individual level without progress at the collective level,” she noted.
On Venezuela, she called for concrete results regarding the full restoration of democracy. She also expressed concern for the conflicts in the Middle East and some parts in Africa, and the increasing tension on the Korean Peninsula. It was essential to resolve all those challenges through diplomacy, she stressed, adding that “it is possible to completely eliminate nuclear weapons.”
She underscored the “enormous opportunity” in global trade and reaffirmed Chile’s commitment to multilateralism. As did many middle income countries, Chile faced challenges, particularly as progress continued to be measured and graded solely by per capita income. “Where are the multidimensional criteria of the 2030 Agenda?” she asked, stressing that countries vulnerable to natural disasters required special criteria. She also reiterated the need to reform the Security Council.
RAIMONDS VĒJONIS, President of Latvia, said the United Nations must overcome current bureaucratic complexities to swiftly respond to today’s challenges and bring positive influences to people on the ground. While the most recent global agreements had demonstrated that effective multilateralism was possible, “we must bring the values and goals of the United Nations closer to the people,” he said, emphasizing Latvia’s support for the Secretary‑General’s vision of a more effective Organization.
Security was of prime importance, he said, adding that the Council bore a responsibility for ensuring peace. As such, its “veto-wielding” members should move beyond their domestic interests in the name of genuinely addressing global challenges. Conflict prevention must be at the core of United Nations action to keep relevant situations from spiralling out of control. He also voiced deep concern about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Strongly condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent actions that had increased global instability, he called on that country to return to credible dialogue with the international community and refrain from any further actions that could worsen tensions. A peaceful and diplomatic solution must be found and all States must implement relevant Council resolutions.
Turning to other concerns, he also called for accountability regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria and affirmed his country’s continued support for the Syrian people and the United Nations-led peace process towards a political solution of the conflict. Welcoming victories in crushing Da’esh, he said the fight against global terrorism was far from over and new strategies must be identified to confront emerging threats.
Solving existing conflicts was essential for preventing new ones, he said, expressing support for the rules-based security order in Europe. The territorial integrity of all States must be respected by all, including the Russian Federation, whose unprovoked aggression against its neighbours was a serious breach of international security rules. Those violating international law must be held accountable. A peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine was a priority and the Russian Federation’s aggression and illegal annexation of Crimea could not become “business as usual”. Conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia must also be resolved.
Attention was needed to address the root causes preventing States from attaining sustainable development, as well as combating climate change and its effects on global security, he continued. The 2030 Agenda implementation mechanisms must be put in place at national, regional and global levels in true partnership with all stakeholders. Latvia’s experience with development cooperation had shown the importance of strengthening capacities of partner countries. To enjoy peace and development, societies needed space and institutions for public debate, he said, outlining Latvia’s approach of supporting press freedoms to counter malicious propaganda emanating from State and non-State actors. While the United Nations must adapt to a changing global environment, he emphasized that the Secretary‑General could not do that alone. “We all must work together to ensure that our Organization functions better and is fit for its purpose,” he said.
JACOB ZUMA, President of South Africa, said the current socioeconomic world order structure was deepening the divide between the global North and global South. Unequal and unjust economic power relations were sharply manifested in Africa. Rich in mineral resources, the region had the highest number of least developed countries. Although developed countries fuelled development from the African continent’s resources, a significant “chunk” was lost to illicit financial outflows. Those billions of dollars would have been utilized to provide education, health care, housing and other basic needs. Money laundering, tax evasion and avoidance, corruption, and transfer pricing by multinational companies remained some of the biggest challenges to economic growth and stability. Such corruption undermined the integrity of the financial system, efficient tax collection and the equitable allocation of resources. He appealed to Member States, particularly developed countries and the United Nations, to contribute to a fair global economic environment and to eradicate illicit financial flows.
He welcomed support to resolve conflicts through the promotion of the African Union’s “African solutions to African problems and challenges” through a “goal of silencing the guns by 2020” as contained in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 action plan. While voicing hope for a resolution addressing the crisis in Libya, he noted that little effort had been made by the African Union to promote stability, with the majority of countries focused on the migrant crisis in Europe. The war in Libya was contributing to the destabilization of the region and had created a corridor for illicit arms trafficking and terrorist activities. Had earlier warnings been heeded, the supply of arms to Libya and Syria would have been avoided and the world would have greater peace today. He called for an immediate resolution of those conflicts, while cautioning against the imposition of foreign solutions through military means.
Addressing the matter of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he called for the end of the nuclear weapons program, as “there are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction”. The only viable solution was their total elimination, as expressed in the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. “It can no longer be acceptable that some few countries keep arsenals and stockpiles of nuclear weapons as part of their strategic defence and security doctrine, while expecting others to remain at their mercy,” he said. Any accidental detonation would lead to a disaster of epic proportions.
All Member States should sign and ratify the ban and reaffirm the inalienable rights of States to peaceful uses of nuclear energy as outlined in the treaty, he continued. South Africa was the biggest producer of medical isotopes used in the treatment of cancer patients and the country would continue to address the peaceful use of atoms to address challenges of socioeconomic development. He also urged that the Security Council be reformed, as it was unable to carry out its responsibilities for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The seventy-second session of the General Assembly coincided with the centenary anniversary of Oliver Reginald Tambo, who had led the African National Congress liberation movement against apartheid and racism in South Africa, he pointed out. Tambo firmly believed in the role of multilateralism and the centrality of the United Nations and would have pleaded for support to the Palestinian people and the people of Western Sahara. The General Assembly must show support for their struggles, similar to what was shown in support of the South African struggle for liberation. He additionally expressed disappointment in the United States’ June 2017 decision that reversed progress in ending the Cuban blockade.
HAGE G. GEINGOB, President of Namibia, said that as long as poverty afflicted his country, there would never be lasting peace or social justice. Growing income disparity posed global threats and only people-driven development would generate lasting change. Namibia based its policies on the belief that “no Namibian should feel left out” because inclusivity would lead to harmony. Social safety nets had contributed to a 52 per cent decline in poverty between 1993 and 2015, he said.
While much work remained to be done in efforts to reduce income inequality, Namibia was positioned to move forward with younger political leaders as the “older guard” made way for the “new breed,” he said, emphasizing that people-centred development must consider all members of society. Namibia had introduced legislation to improve the representation of women, who now accounted for 48 per cent of the National Assembly. The country also recognized the role of women in promoting global peace in negotiations and peacekeeping missions.
With 26 of the 52 United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions deployed in Africa, Namibia recognized the institutional partnership between the Security Council and the African Union, he said. Calling for Africa to be viewed as an equal partner, he urged other nations to better embrace multilateralism. Africa should be included at “the highest decision-making level” within the United Nations, he said, pointing out that a more inclusive Security Council would restore faith in the Organization.
Describing unity as the only path to a sustainable planet, he stressed that the people of Namibia would do anything to support the work of the Secretary‑General. The country had reaffirmed the centrality of multilateralism in adopting the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, he said, adding that it had also reaffirmed the reality of climate change. The natural hazards that had afflicted Sierra Leone, the Caribbean and the United States demonstrated the real threat of climate change, he said.
Turning to the Middle East, he said Namibia stood with the international consensus that Israel’s occupation of Palestine must end, reiterating its position that statehood and independence were “the national, inalienable and legal rights” of the Palestinian people. He also expressed his country’s “unequivocal support” for the people of Western Sahara and their right to self-determination. Namibia called for the implementation of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and for holding the referendum in that territory. He also voiced support for the lifting of all sanctions against Cuba.
FILIP VUJANOVIĆ, President of Montenegro, said good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation in the Balkans were priorities for his country’s foreign policy agenda, to which multilateralism and the affirmation of international organizations promoting peace and security were of key importance, as demonstrated by Montenegro’s participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its relations with the European Union.
In addressing such challenges as terrorism, extremism, the refugee crisis and human rights violations, the United Nations should adopt new mechanisms and make more rapid adjustments, he said, calling for reform of the Organization as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. In particular, the role of the General Assembly should be strengthened and the Security Council enlarged to reflect equitable regional representation.
He said Montenegro would organize a regional conference early in 2018 to share the region’s experience in dialogue and mechanisms for conflict prevention and resolution. Preventing terrorism remained a responsibility for the countries in which it originated, although the international community must provide support, he said, expressing appreciation for the creation of the Office of Counter-Terrorism. Condemning the nuclear and ballistic missile tests carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said they violated Security Council resolutions and threatened global security. Montenegro had adopted the strategy on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as well as an action plan for its implementation, he noted.
Reiterating support for the Paris Agreement, he pointed out that Montenegro contributed financially to the trust fund of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He also touched on the country’s commitment to promoting human rights, eradicating poverty, empowering women, protecting children, and combating discrimination against the LGBTI population and persons with disabilities. He quoted the High Commissioner for Human Rights as having cited Montenegro as one of the 33 Member States that issued regular reports on the implementation of international human rights agreements and presented the country’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council in the 2022‑2024 period.
Concerning refugees and migrants, he said Montenegro was ready to contribute to the drafting of the two global compacts, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and pointed out the need for a comprehensive approach covering the development, security and human rights dimensions. The United Nations must also reinforce its mechanisms for delivering humanitarian assistance, he emphasized.
KLAUS WERNER IOHANNIS, President of Romania, noted that people across the globe continued to suffer from the brutal effects of war, poverty, inequality and injustice. Tensions over cultural identity and faith were rising even within traditionally open and tolerant societies, natural disasters were causing increasing damage every season, and terrorist attacks were deepening the sense of insecurity. “Even if there are some perceptions that the United Nations did not manage well the multitude and complexity of new crises, it is clear that no other path serves us better than multilateralism” in resolving them, he said, adding that a global system based on the international rule of law was paramount. Member States must ensure that the United Nations was equipped with the essential tools in that regard, and increase their commitment to the Organization.
Pointing out that the root causes of conflicts and insecurity rarely emerged from a single source, he said the United Nations agenda aimed to promote sustainable development, promote human rights, ensure a decent life for all and build a sustainable planet. Providing education and ensuring prosperity were the most efficient ways to prevent instability and crisis. Towards that end, Romania had put in place development policies with real impact, aimed at advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. To share those experiences, it planned to submit its Voluntary National Review to the Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development in July 2018.
“We cannot lose sight of the stabilizing role the United Nations is playing in setting the broad parameters of contemporary international relations,” he continued, expressing Romania’s commitment to improving the Organization’s effectiveness. No matter what a reformed Security Council looked like in the future, the United Nations needed to have robust policy planning capabilities as well as the ability to project visions for global peace and well-being “beyond the crises of the day”. Voicing support for the Secretary-General’s reform efforts, he also welcomed the reform of the United Nations counter-terrorism architecture and efforts to make those activities a key element of the Organization’s prevention agenda. Romania also remained committed to the common initiative developed with Spain for the future possible establishment of an International Court against Terrorism.
Underlining Romania’s expectation that the United Nations would also make an increased contribution to global efforts in the area of migration — including by addressing its main sources — he voiced support for the proposed Global Compact on Migration and for the reinforcement of the human rights dimension of that issue. Expressing concern about security developments in and around the Black Sea — where actions were still being undertaken at the expense of the principles and norms of international law — he said the proliferation of protracted conflicts hampered the region’s cooperation and had brought mutual confidence to historically low levels.
For those reasons, the international community should support and stimulate regional cooperation, confidence-building measures and decisively address those conflicts, he continued. Noting that Romania’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for 2020-2021 reflected its enduring commitment to peace, development and justice, he also said the country could make a valuable contribution to the Council’s work, having served in United Nations peacekeeping missions for more than 26 years.
ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA, President of Malawi, said there was a one-sided view of Africa as a continent of incomprehensible tribalism, endemic corruption and intrinsic misery and violence. That negative perception blinded the world from seeing the huge potential of the African people. By contrast, raising people’s potential and viewing them in a positive light should be the impetus for development, he said, noting that the development of societies would only succeed when driven internally. “No human community can take off socioeconomically without empowering its people to drive their own development agenda,” he emphasized. “That is why I underline the importance of investing in human capital.”
Highlighting the need to focus on people in order to realize inclusive growth, he highlighted four segments of society whose interests deserved attention. First, the empowerment of women should be included in development efforts, he said, emphasizing in particular that early marriage must be eradicated. Malawi had made progress on protecting the rights of women and girls, he said, adding that the country had passed a law against marriage below the age of 18 years. The Government was committed to promoting gender equality and girls’ empowerment in order to reduce the vulnerabilities of women and adolescent girls to violence and abuse, he said.
He went on to state that the interests of young people must also be protected to ensure inclusive growth, recalling that the African Union had declared 2017 the Year of the Youth since the continent had the fastest growing youth population. Malawi had increased access to tertiary education and introduced programmes to provide technical and entrepreneurial education to youth lacking opportunities to attend university.
The journey towards inclusive growth must also include people with disabilities, he said, adding that Malawi had reviewed its policies on education, health and trade to include them. The country had also made strides in eradicating attacks against people with Albinism, he said, pointing out that no new attacks had occurred in the last six months. Protecting the interests of agrarian communities was also crucial because their livelihoods had been affected by climate change, he continued, noting that 85 per cent of Malawi’s population were from agrarian communities and had borne the brunt. The country had implemented social protection initiatives, such as cash-transfer programmes, food for work and school feeding programmes, to protect those communities.
Terrorism was another obstacle to development, he said. “Terrorism and conflict hinder progress and make the world live in a state of fear.” He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to stand against all forms of terrorism. Malawi had done its part for the maintenance of peace and security by taking part in United Nations and African Union peacebuilding operations, he noted. “We believe that in protecting your neighbours, you protect yourselves.” Turning to the Korean Peninsula, he said Malawi categorically disapproved of the spread of ballistic missile technology, which should not be tolerated by any Member States. The peace agenda must be a collective effort of all countries, both big and small, he said, emphasizing that Africa should be represented on the Security Council. “The United Nations could no longer claim to lead in democracy while sidelining a representation of 1.2 billion people from Africa,” he affirmed. “How can we claim to be in unity with those whom we exclude? Africa must be included.”
HERY MARTIAL RAJAONARIMAMPIANINA RAKOTOARIMANANA, President of Madagascar, emphasizing that human needs must be at the centre of any country’s concerns, said the recent economic and social crisis had left Madagascar with a high poverty rate and afflicted by food insecurity. Despite those challenges, however, the country had no reason to remain poor, he said, describing himself as an optimist. Through the relentless work of its citizens, Madagascar was now reaching a new stage, and since 2016 had received increased investment, enabling it to develop key sectors, reduce poverty and act on behalf of the most vulnerable segments of society.
Renewed investment and the strengthening of institutions had allowed for new infrastructure projects, the creation of jobs and the ability to participate more fully in the international community, he said, citing Madagascar’s membership of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the International Organization of la Francophonie. He proposed new special economic zones to strengthen infrastructure, education and health, all pillars of sustainable national development, expressing Madagascar’s commitment to improving the quality of life for all its citizens.
Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals, he said projects addressing Goal 4 were under way, and an ambitious education plan was being implemented to bring quality education to young people. There was also a focus on rebuilding a devastated health system, he said. The country was ready for a new health-care system, including an epidemiological survey system to evaluate potential crises in real time. The launch of a universal health-care plan was also under consideration, and a new national nutrition project was being implemented.
Calling attention to the risks of climate change for his country and the world, he said Madagascar was honouring the relevant agreements and had established protected marine areas. With the agricultural sector employing 75 per cent of the population, the country was mitigating risks by diversifying that sector. Investment in ports, highways and airports would “bring Madagascar back to the world economy,” he said, adding that focusing on the tourism sector would also attract investment. The economic model of tomorrow must be driven by low-carbon strategies that would guarantee better living conditions for future generations, he emphasized.
Madagascar’s prospects were favourable, he said, noting that economic growth was projected to reach 5 per cent in 2018. The aim was to raise the country to the middle-income level by 2030. He affirmed that political reforms had been put in place to protect the integrity of democracy, and lasting economic growth was in sight. He concluded by stating that the General Assembly had the tools to accomplish the Secretary‑General’s goals, and expressed Madagascar’s support, and that of the Francophone community, for shared growth and sustainable development, vowing to stand strongly behind the values of solidarity.
MACKY SALL, President of Senegal, said the idea of a better world for all was being challenged by war, terrorism, food emergencies, and unprecedented levels of global warming. Senegal firmly condemned terrorism, but could not accept equating Islam with violence, he said, emphasizing the need to find agreed solutions in combating terrorism. The fourth Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, to be held on 13 and 14 November, would focus on Islam’s doctrinal response to violent extremism.
He went on to underscore Senegal’s participation in seven peacekeeping operations, including MINUSMA, and supported the G-5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger) in their struggle against terrorism. Senegal also supported the Palestinian people’s right to a viable State, living side by side with Israel within internationally recognized borders.
Expressing Senegal’s serious concern about atrocities against the Muslim Rohingya population in Myanmar, he called for international action to end that human tragedy. It was also vital to preserve the integrity of the Paris Agreement and to work towards mutually beneficial exchanges, including fairly priced commodities.
The time had come to afford Africa the place it deserved on the Security Council, he stressed, adding that it was also time to reform the rules of financial and economic governance, including by instituting more effective measures to combat tax evasion. It was time to stop looking at Africa as the continent of the future, he said, underlining Africa’s wish to be a stakeholder in the present, with mutually beneficial partnerships.
It was in that spirit that Senegal would work with all friendly partner States after the end of its term on the Security Council, he said. “We continue to have faith in multilateralism,” he added, noting that past generations knew that isolationism and belligerence were a dead end. Peace was a work in progress, but its foundations were teetering. All humankind saw itself as being under threat, and everyone must work together to preserve peace on the basis of shared humanity, a common fate and common destiny, he said.
MSWATI III, King of Swaziland, said tangible progress must be made on reforming the United Nations, of which the Security Council was a key aspect. To that end, Swaziland reiterated Africa’s call for permanent Council membership, in accordance with the Ezulwini Consensus, and urged the United Nations to heed the “voice of millions of Africans” wishing to contribute to the global community as equal partners.
He went on to urge Member States to address nuclear threats, saying “no country has the right to make the world an unsafe place to live in and we owe it to our people and to future generations to put a stop to it”. Terrorism remained a significant threat and a setback to key developmental issues, he added. Swaziland retained its firm belief in consultative, transparent and all-inclusive decision-making in pursuing social, economic, cultural and political development, he said, reiterating the country’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. It had undertaken several initiatives to mainstream and localize the Goals through public awareness campaigns, consultations, education and training. The Sustainable Development Goals were integrated into the National Development Strategy, which had been revised to capture linkages with the Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063, and contained institutional arrangements to monitor implementation.
Climate change, which had caused severe drought conditions in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2015/2016, had adversely affected crop production in the subregion, he said, thanking the United Nations, development partners, the international community, non-governmental organizations and local organizations for their support during that natural disaster. While efforts to subsidize farming inputs and develop the water harvesting infrastructure needed to enhance food sufficiency would continue, donors were urged to fulfil their pledges to the green fund and to adopt policies that would balance the production of essential products with environmental sustainability. Improvements had been made in education for sustainable development, he said, noting that Swaziland had seen the net enrolment ratio in primary schools rise from 79.2 per cent in 2000 to 97.7 per cent in 2015. That reflected efforts to ensure that all children had access to education, regardless of their socioeconomic status. School feeding schemes provided adequate nutrition, and several all-inclusive initiatives, including livelihood grants for the elderly, had been put in place to further support the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.
He went on to state that Swaziland would host SADC’s University of Innovation and Technology, which would produce skilled manpower and provide solutions to meet the skills gap. To that end, he called for support from highly educated facilitators and the international community. The national workforce had overcome severe social, economic, and environmental challenges, as noted in the national guiding theme for 2017, “Rising Above Adversity to Create Prosperity for All”, he said. He reiterated the critical need to address the “demographic dividend” by accelerating implementation of the African Union road map to investing in youth.
Swaziland aimed to be AIDS-free by 2022, and, as such, required collective action by the Government, international donors and other stakeholders to address the HIV and AIDS pandemic through concerted policies, he said. Findings from the Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey revealed that more than 70 per cent viral load suppression among adults living with HIV had been achieved, as had a reduction of nearly 50 per cent in HIV incidence between 2011 and 2016. He went on to highlight malaria eradication efforts, recalling that Swaziland had been elected Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance during the African Union Summit in January 2017. In closing, he called for Taiwan’s participation in the United Nations, saying that country had demonstrated commitment and aligned itself with the Organization’s priorities.
FAIEZ MUSTAFA SERRAJ, President of Libya, said his country was still facing “very trying times”. The period following the 2011 revolution had been marred by war, and democracy and the rule of law could not be enshrined without cooperation. Thanking all countries and organizations that had assisted in stabilizing the country, he described the Libyan Political Agreement as the cornerstone on which stronger State institutions could be built. Libya was undergoing the transition needed to achieve stability and leave the past behind, with the Presidency Council at the root of that effort, he said.
Libya’s aim was to achieve truly inclusive national reconciliation, he continued, adding that the effort had been slowed by the unwillingness of certain parties to work towards consensus. Violence had ended in Tripoli and other cities across Libya, and embassies were set to reopen, he said, adding that the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) was planning to return. Those displaced by war were now able to return to certain parts of the country, but efforts were still needed to restore peace and security.
Noting that the economy had been bolstered by a tenfold increase in oil production, he urged the unfreezing of Libyan assets, saying the lack of access to those funds cost the country $1 billion a year and hurt prospects for stability. The path to political stability included presidential elections to be held in 2018, he said, emphasizing that the war against terrorism in the country must continue. He called for the development of military and law-enforcement capabilities, noting that cities freed from Da’esh/ISIL were still reeling from the effects of occupation.
Describing migration as a major burden for Libya as a transit country for migrants headed to Europe, he called for greater assistance to address the refugee crisis, and noted that the country was in need of more shelters. The migration crisis exacerbated the scourge of arms smuggling across Libya, he noted, thanking Italy, France and Germany for helping to secure the country’s southern border. Libya was providing all possible assistance to migrants, he said, insisting that the best approach was returning them to their countries of origin.
He went on to underline that the situation in the Middle East remained an absolute priority, stating that Libya would “spare no effort” to support the Palestinian people and the push for the Arab Peace Initiative to resolve the Palestinian question. He also called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Syria. The solution to the crisis in Libya was political, he said, emphasizing that human rights must be “front and centre”. He called upon the Secretary‑General and his Special Envoy to present a timeline and a clear message aimed at “all who want to impede” the reconciliation process. Libya also called on the United Nations to work towards a more inclusive Security Council in which Africa would hold a permanent seat.
BARON DIVAVESI WAQA, President of Nauru, said that small island developing States represented a special case for development due to their small size and population, few natural resources and vulnerability to economic and environmental shocks. The global economic system had not been created with them in mind, he added. While developing countries had demonstrated the political will to engage in climate action, most of them lacked resources and called upon friendly countries and partners to provide assistance and reinforce partnerships on the basis of such national priorities as renewable energy, land rehabilitation, water security and strengthening infrastructure.
He warned that the failure to realize the Paris Agreement goal of maintaining warming below 1.5°C would be devastating for small islands, describing climate change as their defining security challenge of the century. Nauru supported the proposal by the Pacific Small Island Developing States to appoint a United Nations Special Representative on Climate and Security, he added. The prosperity of Nauru’s people depended on ensuring the health of the oceans, he continued, emphasizing that small island developing States must be taken into account in the consideration of all ocean matters. Nauru called for the convening of an intergovernmental conference to draft a new implementing agreement on the preservation of oceans.
Illegal and unregulated fishing was a threat and an economic loss to Nauru’s economy, he continued, stressing the need to reinforce security on the oceans. To that end, he called upon the country’s partners to continue existing programmes and partnerships, saying he looked forward to partnering with other law enforcement agencies throughout the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. He also underscored the difficulty of accessing the funding mechanisms of many international programmes, while describing private investments as unreliable. Nauru needed a capacity-building effort backed by real resources, including the presence of development partners when necessary, he stressed.
He called upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage in dialogue with its neighbours, pointing out that its threats against the Republic of Korea, Japan and the United States placed many small countries in the Pacific, such as Nauru, potentially in the line of fire. That was unacceptable, he emphasized, urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to stop its threats and launches into the Pacific Ocean.
Describing Taiwan as a State with the technical and financial capacity to make contributions to world peace and development, he said that country wished to engage in the partnerships and activities of the United Nations system. The Taiwanese people must be given the freedom to travel, he added. He also reiterated calls for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba.
U HENRY VAN THIO, Vice-President of Myanmar, cited a briefing given to diplomats yesterday by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, saying the situation in Rakhine was a top priority for the Government, which had been striving to ensure development, peace, stability and societal cohesion in that state. That was no easy task, given decades of deep mistrust that needed to be slowly chiselled away. He said that, following the 24 August release of the final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by Kofi Annan, he had hoped to tell the world today about progress made in implementation of its recommendations. It was therefore with deep regret that he would address the Assembly on the current state of affairs following attacks last month by the terrorist group known as ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army).
He went on to recall that, within hours of the release of the Advisory Commission’s report, a series of coordinated attacks had been carried out against 30 police stations in northern Rakhine, for which ARSA had claimed responsibility. Those attacks had ignited fresh violence in the region as well as significant loss of life, widespread suffering and mass displacement. Many had been forced to abandon their homes, including not only Muslims and Rakhine, but also Daingnet, Mro, Thet, Mramagyi and Hindu people. “Let me be clear,” he emphasized, “the Government of Myanmar is deeply concerned about the present situation in Rakhine.” There was no denying the significant magnitude of the problem, although the situation had improved, with no armed clashes reported since 5 September, he said.
Myanmar was concerned about reports that large numbers of Muslims continued to cross into Bangladesh unabated, he said. The reason for that exodus must be determined, he said. However, the decision by a “great majority” of Muslims to remain in their villages was not well-known. He nevertheless acknowledged the need for humanitarian assistance and for the Government to respond to the challenges in Rakhine State. “The situation in Rakhine is complex,” he said. “The challenges we face are significant.”
He went on to announce the launch of a committee chaired by the Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement to oversee implementation of the Advisory Commission’s recommendations. In order to ensure transparency and accountability, the committee would issue a progress report every four months, he said, adding that an advisory board comprising eminent persons from Myanmar and abroad would also be established. At present, humanitarian assistance was the first priority, he said, emphasizing the Government’s commitment to ensuring that aid would be delivered without discrimination to all those in need. Significant national funds and other resources had already been dedicated to humanitarian relief operations, he added, expressing gratitude to those countries that had made generous offers of support.
Myanmar was working hard to enhance relations with Bangladesh, he said, adding that it would welcome that country’s Home Minister at any time to discuss cooperation on border security. With regard to the repatriation of those who had fled northern Rakhine for Bangladesh, he quoted the State Counsellor as having said that Myanmar was ready to start the verification process at any time, based on the experience of 1993. Myanmar stood with the rest of the world in condemning terrorism, but would not allow terrorism to distract it from pursuing a long-term strategy to address the complex challenges in Rakhine, he said. Recent events there were a painful reminder of the difficult challenges the country faced on its long journey towards peace, prosperity and democracy. With Myanmar at a critical juncture in its history, it asked for the international community to continue its support, he said.
JABER AL-MUBARAK AL-HAMAD AL SABAH, Prime Minister of Kuwait, welcomed plans to restructure the United Nations Secretariat so as to make it more effective, and reiterated calls to reform the Security Council as well. Calling also for the immediate cessation of all persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, he emphasized the need to grant that community citizenship. Kuwait condemned terrorism in all its forms and supported international counter-terrorism actions, he said, stressing that ISIL violated the most basic principles of human rights.
On Iraq, he commended that country’s Government on its victory over ISIL and expressed hope that the trend of liberating territory and people from the hold of terrorists would continue. Peace and stability must be restored in Iraq in order to begin efforts to rebuild and to allow refugees to return home. As for the occupation of the Palestinian territories, he said the Arab cause had been “saturated” with United Nations resolutions as well as international and regional initiatives that were not implemented due to the intransigence of the Israeli occupying Power. He condemned Israel’s violations at Haram al-Sharif (Al-Aqsa Mosque) in Jerusalem and categorically rejected all its illegal policies aimed at effecting “judaization” of the Holy City.
Turning to Syria, he noted that Kuwait had hosted three international donor conferences and co-chaired two more, but pointed out that not much had changed on the ground, despite those efforts. The pace of the political track remained slow, he said, pointing out that despite six rounds of talks in Geneva over the past five years, progress continued to stall. The parties to the conflict must come together and hold direct talks aimed at finding a peaceful political settlement, he emphasized.
Reaffirming Kuwait’s full commitment to Yemen’s unity, he rejected any interference in that country’s internal affairs, stressing that a solution must be based on the outcomes of the national dialogue, initiatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and its implementation mechanisms, and all relevant Security Council resolutions. He renewed calls for Iran to establish relations based on cooperation and non-interference in the internal affairs of States and to renounce practices that risked jeopardizing the region’s security.
Turning to the 2030 Agenda, he noted the significant challenges arising from humanity’s long “erroneous behavioural patterns”. Stressing the need to curb climate change, he said the phenomenon represented the biggest impediment to sustainable development. Kuwait would continue to mainstream the 2030 Agenda into its own national agenda by integrating it into the “New Kuwait” 2035 plan, which comprised seven pillars intended to transform the country into a financial, commercial, cultural and institutional hub. Pledging that Kuwait would continue to shoulder its regional and international responsibilities, he underlined its commitment to helping developing and least developing countries by providing them with grants and soft loans.
JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister and Minister for iTaukei Affairs, Sugar Industry and Foreign Affairs of Fiji, conveyed his sympathy to all the people in the Caribbean currently suffering the ravages of Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma before that. Recalling that Fiji had lost 44 people and one third of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 after being struck by the biggest cyclone ever to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere, he said there was no time to waste. The global community must work to restore the health of the oceans and tackle overfishing, he emphasized, welcoming the appointment of Ambassador Peter Thomson as Special Envoy for the Ocean.
He went on to stress Fiji’s contribution to United Nations peacekeeping, noting that while his country had suffered human loss in doing so, it took pride in helping to protect people in troubled parts of the world.
Millions of people were on the move because of drought and food insecurity, but “for the Fijian people, climate change is real,” he noted. Whether it was whole villages moving out of the way of rising seas or salinity seeping into crops, global warming had changed Fiji’s understanding of its national interests. He added: “It may be tempting for political leaders to show that they are protecting some national industry or near-term economic goal, but at what cost?”
Collective action was the only way forward, he said, highlighting his role as the next President of the Conference of Parties (COP23) — and the first Pacific Islander to serve in that role — which would take place in Bonn, Germany. He emphasized the importance of the grand coalition of Governments, civil society, the private sector and ordinary citizens. Vowing to “do things in Bonn differently”, he outlined how he would work to move the climate action agenda forward. Climate activists, cutting-edge companies, and artists were welcome to participate, he added.
He went on to state that it was essential to make special provisions for the world’s most vulnerable people, who lacked the basic resources to deal with natural disasters, “because without insurance, restoration and rebuilding is simply too great a burden for many”. Encouraged by the rapid development of clean, affordable alternative energy solutions, he said that such innovations offered great promise.
“I am in no doubt that the role that I have embraced as COP23 President is the most important any Fijian leader has undertaken,” he said, appealing to Pacific leaders to support him in tackling the world’s greatest challenge. “We are all in the same canoe,” he pointed out.
NASSER BOURITA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said the world was at a crossroads, with security under threat from terrorism, extremism, separatist movements and climate change. Globalization and information technology had also had a profound impact, but effective global multilateral organizations could help to solve the challenges confronting the world.
Africa could no longer be regarded as a burden, he said, adding that the continent had not gained its rightful place in collective action to date. Africa should not be dealt with exclusively in terms of assistance, given its human resources, including 1 billion young people, its natural resources and its fertile lands and water. In the view of the King of Morocco, South-South cooperation held promise, he said.
Emphasizing that Morocco had aligned its national priorities with the United Nations agenda, he said the country was contributing to strong regional cooperation, including by chairing an international forum on migration that sought to draw up proposals looking beyond security concerns to consider the human aspects of that phenomenon He pointed out Morocco’s contribution to six peacekeeping operations and voiced deep concern over irresponsible attacks on peacekeepers, stressing that the perpetrators must be brought to justice. There was need for a new concept of peacekeeping that would put troop-contributing countries at the heart of decision-making, he said.
Concerning the Palestinian question, he noted the efforts of the United States, while emphasizing that Morocco opposed any change to the status of Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa mosque. As for Western Sahara, he reaffirmed his country’s readiness to work with the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy towards a peaceful settlement on that territory, which would maintain Moroccan sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also drew attention to the tragedy of the Tindouf camps and called upon the international community to pressure the relevant host country to allow UNHCR to register everyone all their inhabitants.
MIGUEL VARGAS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, apologized for the absence of President Danilo Medina, who had been compelled to return home to deal with the threat of Hurricane Maria. Expressing deep solidary with the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, he noted that accurate figures for the damages to many Caribbean islands had not yet been determined. However, it was clear that the damage was substantial, and that recovery would take years, he said. Valuable lives had been lost.
He went on to say that the material losses resulting from Hurricane Irma had far exceeded his country’s GDP. “Our economies, our way of life and our development potential are in danger,” he emphasized, calling upon other nations to join forces in helping the Caribbean region confront the threat. “It is not enough to send messages of solidarity or humanitarian aid,” he stressed. “And it is absolutely not enough to sign agreements on climate change.” Those agreements must be coherent, move a joint agenda forward, and develop concrete action plans, he said, proposing the creation of a special fund to deal with natural catastrophes while fostering awareness, prevention and resilience strategies.
Spotlighting the United States as an example to illustrate how economic resources could help to alleviate the damage caused by natural phenomenon, he recalled that in the aftermath of recent hurricanes, that country’s Government had dispersed much-needed assistance to its citizens. However, there was no way that vulnerable and insular regions such as the Caribbean could cope on their own, he said. “We cannot afford to keep downplaying this reality.” Appealing on behalf of the children, women, men and elderly people facing “absolute helplessness”, he urged the United Nations to find ways to help Governments unable to rebuild on their own.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).