With the world suffering from a bad case of “trust deficit disorder”, its leaders must not only advance the welfare of their people, but also promote a reformed, reinvigorated and strengthened multilateral system, Secretary-General António Guterres said today as the General Assembly opened its seventy-third general debate.
“Multilateralism is under fire precisely when we need it most,” Mr. Guterres said, warning that shifts in the balance of power between nations may increase the risk of confrontation. He appealed for a renewed commitment to a rules-based order, with the United Nations at its centre and with the different institutions and treaties that bring the Organization’s Charter to life.
“In the face of massive existential threats to people and planet — but, equally, at a time of compelling opportunities for shared prosperity — there is no way forward but collective, common-sense action for the common good,” he underscored. “This is how we rebuild trust.”
The world has also reached a pivotal moment when world leaders must heed the knowledge of scientists and guarantee implementation of the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change to avoid “runaway climate change”, he told the Assembly. The upcoming Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change must be a success, he said, adding that he plans to convene a summit on the issue in September 2019 — a year before States are to revive their Paris pledges.
He also underscored the promise and perils of new technologies, observing that malicious acts in cyberspace — such as disinformation campaigns — are polarizing communities and sowing distrust among States. The impact of new technologies on warfare must also be addressed to avert a new arms race, he said, inviting the international community to embrace the United Nations as a platform to nurture a digital future that is safe and beneficial for all.
María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said the United Nations is as relevant today as it was 73 years ago when the Organization was founded. Multilateralism is the only viable response to global problems, she emphasized, inviting Member States to focus on seven priorities — gender equality and the empowerment of women, implementation of new global agreements on refugees and migrants, the creation of decent work opportunities, protection of the environment, the rights of persons with disabilities, the revitalization of the United Nations, and peace and security.
On the role of the General Assembly, Ms. Espinosa said it must be the world’s chief peacebuilding organization championing initiatives to ensure greater youth participation in politics. World leaders must fulfil the needs of the people, without losing heart in efforts to build a more peaceful and humane world.
Throughout the day, a total of 34 world leaders from the four corners of the globe addressed the General Assembly and shared their vision of the world’s most pressing challenges, ranging from climate change, nuclear proliferation and protracted conflict to large-scale migration, economic inequality and the elimination of extreme poverty through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Several speakers also addressed United Nations reforms, including changing the make-up of the 15-nation Security Council.
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, drew attention to Africa’s embrace of closer and more productive cooperation through the African Union and regional economic communities. Once in force, the African Continental Free Trade Area will redefine Africa’s place in the global economic order while helping its people meet the Sustainable Development Goals. “The dividend of a more focused and functional Africa benefits everyone,” he said. He added that today’s two-track system of global governance — in which a few define the norms by which others will be judged — is unsustainable. “Addressing this imbalance in the very foundation of our system is what will give shape to a revival of multilateral cooperation,” he said.
“At a time where our collective system is falling apart, sadly, it is most in demand,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said, as he proposed the crafting of a new world balance, with new forms of international and regional cooperation. Ten years after the global financial crisis, the world is paying a collective price for the international community’s failure to address the unequal spread of wealth around the globe. Noting that France is the incoming chair of the Group of Seven, he said inequalities will be addressed in that forum. In the past, rich countries could impose an agenda on the rest of the world. Those days are now over, he stated. As well, Africa must be given a central and leading role in any internationally formed new order, as it is on this continent that the battle against inequality will be won or lost.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States, making the case for State sovereignty, said nations can work better together when they respect their neighbours and defended their people’s interests. Portraying the world as a constellation of unique nations, each shining brightly, he said sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicles where freedom, democracy and peace have survived and prospered. “America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again,” he said.
He dedicated a portion of his speech to Iran, accusing its leaders of sowing chaos, death and destruction, disrespecting the borders and sovereignty of neighbouring States and plundering national resources. “We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” he said, upholding his decision to pull the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and to reimpose nuclear sanctions on Iran.
However, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran counters those assertions, saying that the current United States Administration seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual. Underscoring that Iran has thus far complied with all its commitments according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he criticized the United States for resorting to a flimsy excuse to justify its withdrawal from the accord and for pressuring other countries to violate it.
“Unlawful unilateral sanctions in themselves constitute a form of ‘economic terrorism’”, he said. While acknowledging that, at the end of the day, there is no alternative to dialogue, he expressed objection to the United States’ bullying and stressed that no State or nation can be brought to the negotiation table by force. Dialogue can resume if “threats and unjust sanctions that negate the principle of ethics and international law” are ended.
Abdullah II ibn al Hussein, King of Jordan, highlighted the importance of collective action in ending the serious crises in the Middle East, especially the long denial of a Palestinian State. A one-State solution will be ugly and undemocratic and by no means an alternative to a two-State peace settlement, he said. In addition, noting that Jordan is hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees, he said the world cannot address the refugee crisis — or any global crisis — “unless we work tougher to support those who are doing the right thing for the future we all share”.
President Danny Faure of Seychelles underscored that peace and prosperity cannot be disassociated from the effects of climate change and its existential threat to the world. If States fail to uphold climate commitments, they will face an inescapable crisis, he warned. On economic development, he said that Seychelles pioneered a Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Road Map to multiply the potential of its territorial waters while protecting them for future generations. He also called for a vulnerability and resilience index that will account for the unique vulnerabilities of small island developing States.
President Danilo Medina Sánchez of the Dominican Republic said “there’s not a safe spot on the planet”. Addressing the increasing frequency of natural hazards, he offered examples, including a typhoon that recently hit the Philippines “with a force not seen in decades” and cyclonic seasons in the Caribbean. Efforts to mitigate the lives lost and economic damage sustained must begin at the local level where the daily life of people develops, which is where his Government is improving resilience and relocating communities living around vulnerable areas. In addition, regional and global efforts are needed.
Indeed, said President Hilda C. Heine of the Marshall Islands, the political will to address climate change must extend to atoll nations like hers, whose very survival is at risk. Underlining her role as the first female Head of State in the independent Pacific islands region, she said the United Nations must accelerate efforts to ensure that all women, especially the youngest, have a rightful role at all levels of decision-making.
President Lenín Voltaire Moreno Garces of Ecuador, speaking from a wheelchair, said: “As a person with a disability, I know there will be no peace unless we have inclusion and we celebrate diversity,” adding that, as a President, that peace becomes possible when efforts are made on behalf of those who need it most, making sure, without exception, that everyone is free to realize their dreams every single day throughout their whole lives.
At the outset of the meeting, a moment of silence was observed in honour of the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who passed away on 18 August.
Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government of Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, Peru, Qatar, Finland, Nigeria, South Africa, Malawi, Guatemala, Egypt, Paraguay, Argentina, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Slovenia, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kyrgyzstan, Gambia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mozambique, Japan, Armenia and Morocco.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 26 September, to continue its general debate.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the world is suffering from a bad case of “trust deficit disorder”, with people losing faith in political establishments amid rising polarization and populism. Cooperation among States is more difficult, divisions within the Security Council stark, and trust in global governance fragile as twenty-first century challenges outpace twentieth century institutions and mindsets. While living standards for millions have improved, and a third world war avoided, that cannot be taken for granted. “Multilateralism is under fire precisely when we need it most,” he said. While a multipolar world will not in itself guarantee peace or solve global problems, shifts in the balance of power may increase the risk of confrontation, he cautioned. Leaders have the duty to advance the well-being of their people, but as guardians of the common good, they also have a duty to promote and support a reformed, reinvigorated and strengthened multilateral system.
Leaders must renew their commitment to a rules-based order, with the United Nations at its centre and with the different institutions and treaties that bring the United Nations Charter to life, he stated. They must also demonstrate the added value of international cooperation by delivering peace, defending human rights and driving economic and social progress for women and men everywhere. “In the face of massive existential threats to people and planet — but, equally, at a time of compelling opportunities for shared prosperity — there is no way forward but collective, common-sense action for the common good,” he underscored. “This is how we rebuild trust.”
Recalling the seven challenges he set out in his address to the general debate at the opening of the seventy-second session a year ago, he noted that, sadly, they remain unresolved. He cited, among other things, wars in Syria and Yemen, the situation of the Rohingya people, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, nuclear peril, the use of chemical weapons, trade tensions, discrimination against refugees and migrants, and growing authoritarianism as the human rights agenda loses ground. It is the common duty of all to reverse those trends and move ahead on the basis of facts, not fear, with prevention at the heart of all efforts.
Focusing on climate change, which represents a direct existential threat, he stressed: “We have reached a pivotal moment. If we do not change course in the next two years, we risk runaway climate change.” World leaders must listen to scientists, see what is happening before their very eyes and guarantee implementation of the Paris Agreement. Voicing concern about insufficient progress at the Bangkok negotiations on implementation guidelines, he said the upcoming Conference of the Parties must be a success. The good news is that technology is on the side of progress, with the potential to create jobs and contribute to the global economy. The real danger is the risk of failing to act. Governments must end fossil fuel subsidies and establish fair prices for carbon. “Our future is at stake. Climate change affects everything,” he said, announcing that he will convene a summit on climate change in September 2019 to mobilize action and financing one year before States are to revive their Paris pledges. Only a higher level of ambition will do, he said, adding: “The world needs you to be climate champions.”
While new technologies hold great promise, they also pose risks and serious dangers, including criminal activity and disruption to labour markets, he continued. Malicious acts in cyberspace, such as disinformation campaigns, are polarizing communities and diminishing trust among States. Social media and the digital revolution are reinforcing tribalism and reinforcing a male-dominated culture. The technology sector must become more diverse, not least for its own benefit. With technology outpacing institutions, cooperation between States and stakeholders is crucial, he said, stressing the urgency to find and implement mutually beneficial solutions to digital challenges. Further, the dangers of new technologies on warfare also need to be urgently addressed, particularly now that the prospect of weapons which can select and attack targets on their own could trigger a new arms race. “Let’s call it as it is: the prospect of machines with the discretion and power to take human life is morally repugnant,” he said, warning that any new war could include a massive cyberattack against civilian infrastructure as well as military capacities. He urged the international community to use the United Nations as a platform to nurture a digital future that is safe and beneficial for all.
Despite chaos and confusion in the world, there are winds of hope, he said, citing peace initiatives between Eritrea and neighbouring States, the signing of a peace agreement between the rival leaders of South Sudan, and summit meetings between the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States and Republic of Korea. He also cited a strong commitment to peace in Colombia, steps taken by Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to resolve their differences, and peaceful political transitions in Armenia, Liberia and Uzbekistan. Approval of compacts on refugees and migrations is another sign of hope, while the drive for gender equality is gaining ground. “Our future rests on solidarity,” he said. “We must repair broken trust. We must reinvigorate our multilateral project and we must uphold dignity for one and all.”
MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCÉS (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said that the work of the United Nations is as relevant today as it was 73 years ago. Multilateralism stands alone as the only viable response to the problems facing the international community. Around the world, millions of people are suffering from violence, war, want and the effects of climate change. For those millions, uncertainty and fear are their daily lot. Their crushed dreams and lack of any hope in the future is exploited by some to further divide communities, stirring up racism, xenophobia and violence. “No one can be indifferent to human suffering. Wars, conflicts, economic crises and environmental degradation affect us all equally,” she stated.
She called for Member States to work together around seven priorities, the first being gender equality and the empowerment of women. Violence against women persists in all regions of the world and girls are still not offered full access to quality education. The second priority should be the implementation of the new global agreements on refugees and migrants. The creation of decent work opportunities for all is the third priority and represents one of the most significant challenges for public policymaking.
Regarding the fourth priority, she stressed that attention should be paid to the protection to the environment. Extreme heat waves, forest fires and storms and floods are leaving in their wake a trail of death and devastation and hurricanes killed thousands of people in 2017. The international community bears the responsibility to reverse policies that are killing the planet. Turning to the fifth priority, she called for Member States to firm up political commitments to persons with disabilities. Accessibility, inclusive and quality education and dignified jobs are all challenges for persons with disabilities. The sixth priority is the revitalization of the United Nations, including the reform process of the Security Council.
The seventh priority is peace and security, as well as the role of young people, she continued. The General Assembly must be the chief peacebuilding organization in the world. It must champion initiatives to ensure that young people enjoy greater participation in political activities. Concluding, she pointed out that the challenges addressed in the United Nations Charter have evolved. The threats of climate change, the erosion of biodiversity, human trafficking, environmental pollution, large displacements of both migrants and refugees, terrorism and ethnic conflicts are now at the top of the agenda. She appealed to world leaders to meet the needs of the people, and not to lose heart in attempts to create a more peaceful and humane world.
MICHEL TEMER, President of Brazil, said “we live in times clouded by isolationist forces”. Old intolerances are being rekindled and unilateral relapses are increasingly less of an exception. Stressing that such challenges must not intimidate the international community, he urged that isolationism, intolerance and unilateralism be responded to with the very best of the world’s peoples. Noting that his country has been responding to isolationism with more openness and more integration, he stressed that shared development depends on more international trade and investment flows, more contact with new ideas and new technologies. By remaining open to others, nations will build a shared prosperity.
Brazil has carried out a universalist foreign policy, he continued. It has deepened the integration mechanisms in its geographic neighbourhood. His Government is strengthening as well as starting trade negotiations with partners from all regions. In that regard, Brazil has focused on its ties with the countries forming the Pacific Alliance and is seeking an even more united Latin America, as is enshrined in its Constitution.
Isolation may give a false sense of security, he went on to say. Protectionism may even sound seductive, but it is through openness and integration that harmony, growth and progress can be achieved. Brazil has also responded in a resolute manner to the challenge of intolerance through dialogue and solidarity. Those values honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that will soon celebrate seven decades. Making it a reality remains an imperative that requires permanent attention and efforts.
Migrants are being threatened by a lingering crisis and have had to make a risky decision to leave their homelands, he said. There was a duty to protect them through the Global Compact for Migration. One million Venezuelan nationals have left their country of origin in search of better living conditions. Brazil has welcomed thousands and, along with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has built shelters to help accommodate them. Brazil has also issued formal documents so that they can work in Brazil and receive schooling and healthcare. The solution to the migration crisis will be forthcoming when Venezuela again finds the path to development, he said, adding that Brazil is proud of its tradition of hospitality.
Brazil is a country so diverse that there is a piece of the world in every Brazilian national, he went on to say. As dialogue and solidarity are antidotes that help fight bigotry, they are also the cornerstone of long‑lasting peace. In the Middle East, his country joined the ongoing celebrations of the seventieth anniversary of Israel and renewed its commitment to the two-State solution. It has also supported international efforts to put an end to the conflict in Syria, a conflict that has been going on for too long. In 2017 alone, Brazil donated nearly one metric ton of medicines and vaccines to assist the children affected by the conflict in Syria and welcomed a number of refugees. In the Korean Peninsula, a sense of dialogue and solidarity has informed the position of Brazil on denuclearization.
LENÍN VOLTAIRE MORENO GARCES, President of Ecuador, said that everything in life is cause and effect and that human beings tend to scour the past to predict the future. Those who govern, leaders and decision-makers have a responsibility in the way the world receives the future. History is something that can change. Policies are successful when they strive to address the histories of every single individual, especially the poorest. “We are united nations who are united to change the history of peoples,” he said.
Ecuador’s plan of Government is called “a whole life”, because it wants to be attentive to the human being from the moment they are conceived to the moment of their passing, he continued. Being attentive means caring, motivating, and expressing gratitude. Caring and encouraging are part of the first phase of life. To look after the child during its first thousand days of life is called “a mission of tenderness”. Children are encouraged to study, to play, to be happy, to love science and to delve into technology. It is important to study but also to create. Further, elders should live in a society that is grateful for everything they have done, so that those final years are truly their best years.
What gave rise to this kind of thinking was the word “perhaps”, he went on to say, describing its application as “perhaps I was born and lived in the Amazon region in the lungs of the planet in the most mega-diverse tropical forest in the world. There I got to know the problems of those who are abandoned, without even minimal health coverage”. At the General Assembly, Member States will combat tuberculosis and the onslaught of non-communicable diseases. Yet, access to life-saving medication is denied because privilege is given to intellectual property instead of the right to health care. The more the United Nations strives to touch the lives of people, the stronger the world will be in the future, he stressed.
Ecuador’s “whole-life” programme also means all people need to be happy, he pointed out. He noted that, in the great country of the United States, the second line of the Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self‑evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That Declaration inspired the Constitution of that great country. For this, he said, he did not understand how countries such as the United States could blockade an almost defenceless nation such as Cuba and prevent others from having their right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
Idealistic young people will not understand how countries, which have achieved a level of superiority in weapons, prefer to see their sons fight in foreign conflicts, he stated. Instead of resolving them, they perpetuate them. Bankers robbed the pockets of people of Ecuador when they made entire families poor, he said, noting that Governments, instead of caring for the poor and needy, often do everything that is the opposite. “As a person with a disability, I know there will be no peace unless we have inclusion and we celebrate diversity,” he said, adding that as a President, peace becomes possible when efforts are made on behalf of those who need it most, making sure without exception, that everyone is free to realize their dreams every single day throughout their whole lives.
DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States, underscored the progress made by his country since his election, stating that it is now stronger, safer and richer. “We are standing up for America and the American people, and we are also standing up for the world,” he said. When nations respect the rights of their neighbours and defend the interests of their people, they can better work together to secure the blessings of prosperity and peace. The United States will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control and domination, he said. It will not tell others how to live or work or worship; it only asks that its sovereignty be honoured in return.
Highlighting the United States engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he thanked its leader Kim Jong-un for his courage and for the steps taken towards a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. However, much work remains to be done, he said, emphasizing that sanctions will remain until denuclearization occurs. In the Middle East, the new American approach is making great strides, with Gulf nations assuming greater responsibility in the fight against terrorism and extremism. Ultimately, it is up to the nations of the region to decide the kind of future they want. For that reason, the United States is working with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan and Egypt to set up a regional strategic alliance to advance prosperity and stability. Turning to the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Iraq and Syria, he said the international community’s shared goal in Syria must be a de-escalation of the military conflict alongside a political solution that honours the will of the Syrian people. The United Nations-led peace process must be reinvigorated, but the United States will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime. Commending Jordan and others for hosting Syrian refugees, he emphasized that the most compassionate policy is to place refugees as close to their homes as possible.
Every solution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria must include a strategy to address the brutal and corrupt regime in Iran that has fuelled and financed it, he continued. The leaders of Iran are sowing chaos, death and destruction, disrespecting their neighbours’ borders and sovereignty, and plundering their country’s resources. Many countries in the Middle East supported the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and to reimpose targeted nuclear sanctions. “We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” he stated, calling for the Iranian regime to be isolated. Recalling the relocation of the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, he said peace between Israelis and Palestinians has been advanced, not harmed, by acknowledging the obvious facts. “America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again,” he said.
On other global issues, he said trade must be fair and reciprocal. No longer will the United States be taken advantage of by those who abuse its openness by dumping exports, subsidizing industries and manipulating their currencies. Many Member States will agree that the world trading system is in dire need of change, he said, affirming that the United States trade imbalance with China cannot be tolerated. On human rights, he said the United States will not return to the Human Rights Council until real reforms are enacted. Nor will the United States support or recognize the International Criminal Court, which has no jurisdiction, legitimacy or authority. He called on the member States of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to lower oil prices and spend more on defence, and warned that Germany will depend entirely on Russian energy if it fails to change course. Reaffirming the rejection by the United States of outside interference in the Western hemisphere, he underscored its cooperation with Latin American partners on migration. However, the United States will not participate in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Migration should not be governed by an international body unaccountable to citizens. The only long-term solution to the migration crisis is to help people build more hopeful futures in their own countries — to “make their countries great again”.
Describing the situation in Venezuela as a human tragedy, he urged Member States to call for the restoration of democracy in that country. The United States is reviewing its foreign assistance programme to see what works, what does not work and whether recipient countries have the interests of the United States at heart. On the United Nations, he affirmed his commitment to make the Organization more effective and accountable. It has unlimited potential, he said, but stressed the United States will not pay more than 25 per cent of its peacekeeping budget. The world is a better place thanks to a constellation of nations, each of them special, unique and shining brightly in their part of the world, he said, adding that sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicles where freedom, democracy and peace have survived and prospered. “Together let us choose a future of patriotism, prosperity and pride. Let us choose peace and freedom over domination and defeat and let us come here […] to stand for our people and their nations — forever strong, forever sovereign, forever just and forever thankful for the grace and the goodness and the glory of God.”
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN, President of Turkey, said the United Nations has moved away from meeting the expectations of humanity for peace and welfare, particularly as the Security Council only serves the interests of its veto‑right-holding members. Stressing that Turkey will continue to be on the side of the oppressed Palestinian people and to protect the historical legal status of Jerusalem, he called for comprehensive reform to the structure and functioning of the United Nations, adding that budget reform alone will not address the Organization’s problems.
He went on to identify justice as one of the most important tasks that can be performed through the United Nations, noting that the circle of justice has been shattered in many parts of the world. Citing the enormous global wealth gap, migration and infant mortality rates, he called for a global administration system to help the impoverished and give future generations hope. To date, his country has spent $32 billion hosting 4 million refugees. Further, it has secured the Idlib de-escalation area in Syria, allowing for humanitarian aid to reach millions, despite a lack of external support.
He also noted that his country is contributing to the work of the United Nations through substantial initiatives, including: the Mediation for Peace Initiative, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, efforts to implement a development programme in Somalia, efforts to resolve the Gulf Crisis and actively responding to developments in Syria. The recent Sochi Agreement signed with the Russian Federation has prevented bloody assaults in a region of Syria where 3 million civilians live. That accord will clear the way for a peaceful solution to the crisis. Countries that support terrorist organizations and closed borders to refugees will not secure a safer and more prosperous future, he stressed.
Turning to the threat of terrorism, he said that not all terrorist organizations obtained their power through armed actions. Many engage through covert and deceptive methods. He pointed to “FETÖ [Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü], which attempted a coup d’état” in 2016, and which has done so through non‑governmental organizations, among other “glossy concepts”, he said. Although it has been eliminated from the country, the organization was now active in other parts of the world. Several countries have not heeded warnings of the risks posed by that group, including the United States where the organization receives government funds in 27 states.
Trade wars are harmful to humanity, he said, stressing that States must not remain silent in the face of spreading protectionism and the use of economic sanctions as a weapon. The international community must work together to prevent damaging the world trade regime. However, some countries were persistently trying to create chaos. Turkey is in favour of free trade and movement of persons. Lastly, highlighting both youth and the elderly, he called for the establishment of a United Nations youth organization, to be based in Istanbul, as youth is the future of the world. He also noted that the United Nations International Agency on Aging was being established in Istanbul, where the third World Assembly on Aging will take place.
PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, spotlighted the paradox represented by both Africa’s deep sense of transnational solidarity and its frequent division and dysfunction. “This left Africa unable to articulate and advance our common interests,” he said, adding: “We ceded responsibility for our futures to others, not by force, but by default.” However, he emphasized that times are now changing rapidly, and Africa’s global position must also change.
He went on to say that the continent’s current trends are towards closer and more productive cooperation, both through the African Union and regional economic communities. Recalling that the former recently initiated major financial and institutional reforms, he said that practical results are already being seen. The African Union’s budget is 12 per cent lower than in 2017 and the share of funding supplied by its member States has increased substantially.
Early in 2018, the historic African Continental Free Trade Area was signed, representing the culmination of decades of effort, he continued. Once in force, Africa’s place in the global economic and trade architecture will be redefined. Economies of scale and higher levels of intra-African trade will help the continent attain the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Underlining the importance of crucial developments in the Horn of Africa — where leaders have set aside decades of mistrust to work towards comprehensive settlements — he said the Security Council must work closely with the African Union to accompany that normalization process.
Turning to other situations on the continent, such as those in the Central African Republic, Libya, the Sahel region and South Sudan, he said Africa and the world should come together to harmonize overlapping initiatives and ensure that agreements are respected. African countries stand ready to embark on a new chapter of cooperation between the continent and the United Nations, based on the stable funding of African Union-mandated peace support operations. In that regard, he noted that a resolution slated to be introduced by Africa’s three present Security Council members enjoys the full backing of the African Union and will align with the Secretary-General’s new Action for Peacekeeping initiative.
“The dividend of a more focused and functional Africa benefits everyone,” he continued, emphasizing that against the backdrop of stronger partnerships the African Union’s representation at the United Nations must be accorded the same status and weight enjoyed by other major regional bodies. Making the United Nations relevant to all people requires a commitment to achieving real multilateralism where it has too often been lacking. Indeed, the current two-track system of global governance — in which a few define the norms by which others will be judged — is unsustainable. “Standards that do not apply to everyone, equally, are not universal,” he warned, adding: “Addressing this imbalance in the very foundation of our system is what will give shape to a revival of multilateral cooperation.”
ENRIQUE PEÑA NIETO, President of Mexico, said his country, through an institutional architecture created to move forward on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is promoting a form of sustainable development that benefits all. The implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change is a priority, he stated, and the international community has a moral obligation to not only implement it, but also comply with even more ambitious goals.
Mexico has also taken action towards solutions to the challenges of migration, he said, welcoming the progress made on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Based on a new paradigm, Mexico has worked in the past two years to establish the Compact’s guiding principles: the respect of human rights of all migrants, shared responsibility and the full respect of the sovereignty of States. The adoption of this instrument in Marrakesh will provide Member States with a fundamental document for international management of migration.
Mexico has also renewed its contribution to peacekeeping operations in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean, he said. As well, it distinguished itself by working towards the full elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. He called on all Member States to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons without delay. In addition, “the trafficking of illicit weapons, due to its gravity, is a scourge with which we must deal immediately”, he stressed. The outcome of the 2016 special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem will also be a watershed for the international drug control regime. In that regard, there was a need to move from prohibition to effective regulation.
Acknowledging that Mexico still faces major human rights‑related problems, he noted that his country implemented specific policies and accepted international scrutiny in that regard. The international community must continue to promote the respect of democratic principles as part of its work on human rights. The breakage of democratic order in some parts of the Americas is a grave concern, and Mexico will work to ensure that peace, democracy and the respect of human rights are re-established in every corner of the continent, while fully respecting the principle of non‑intervention. He also reiterated the call to put an end to the trade and financial embargo on Cuba, stressing that solutions to problems are found in dialogue and negotiation. The lifting of this embargo will be positive for the entire region, he added.
Exclusionary nationalisms, protectionist practices, and the erosion of multilateralism promote various forms of exclusion, he noted. Faced with these concerning trends, he reaffirmed the importance of cooperation, adding that “multilateralism is the best way to defend the sovereignty of States while contributing to the well‑being of the community of nations”. Towards that end, dialogue, cooperation and an international rules‑based system are the best options to find fair, shared and lasting solutions to global problems. Chiding those who choose exclusion and discord, he emphasized that the challenges facing the international community force Member States to remain faithful to the principles established in the United Nations Charter.
EMMANUEL MACRON, President of France, said that despite achievements in human rights and poverty eradication in the last decades, financial, climactic and gaping issues of inequality remain today. The international community’s collective ability to attack these crises has been hampered by the Security Council. Cultural relativism is pervasive and could render the United Nations a symbol of powerlessness. As everyone pursues their own interests, such unilateral pursuit leads directly to isolation and conflict. The task is not to fuel tensions but to put forth a new agenda through dialogue and multilateralism. Trade imbalances can be solved with common rules that guarantee fair competition, not bilateral dealings. As well, solving the Israel-Palestine crisis cannot happen through unilateral initiatives or by trampling on Palestinians’ right to peace or underestimating the right of Israel to safety. All must go beyond historical positions to think outside the box, he said, stressing that such an approach will effect positive change on the ground. The law of the strongest will only exacerbate tensions.
Proposing that a new world balance to be crafted together, he called for new forms of international and regional cooperation. The upholding of sovereignty enhances regional cooperation and more robust international safeguards will enable responses to current crises. In Syria, for example, the role of the Organization should be to head peace efforts, provide the ways and means to solve the humanitarian crisis, and to assist in crafting a constitution and free elections. However, decisions ultimately must be made by stakeholders. In Libya, this new approach would allow for a lasting solution. State institutions in that country must be supported by the United Nations and the African Union. All States must be able to count on themselves to guarantee their own security and must also draw upon regional and international organizations. This was the intention of the African Union, an organization which should be supported by the United Nations, he said, noting that a resolution along these lines would be presented by the end of the year.
While sovereignty and enhanced regional and international cooperation must be upheld, only collective action allows for the upholding of sovereignty, he continued. Thus, climactic, migration flows and other global issues must be tackled collectively. The only way to effectively manage migration is to address the root causes, dismantle trafficking networks and protect borders while upholding international law and right to asylum. After the financial crisis ten years ago, the international community failed to address the unequal spread of wealth across the globe and all of those who felt left behind. Today the world is paying the collective price for that. A solution is needed for those suffering from gaping equality gaps, for impoverished people, for youth living in developing countries and that solution depends on what the General Assembly does. France will increase its official development assistance (ODA) to €1 billion, an increase of 40 per cent. As the incoming chair of the Group of Seven, he stated that inequalities will be addressed in that forum. In the past, rich countries could impose an agenda on the rest of the world, but those days are over, he stated.
The Paris Agreement remains intact, despite withdrawal of the United States, and that should be reason for encouragement, he said, adding “people say it’s too late; well then, let’s hurry up”. Calling for goals to be ambitious and bold, he urged Member States to stop signing trade agreements for those who do not participate in the Paris Agreement. He also proposed that the United Nations support France in the creation of a mechanism to address inequalities when the Group of Seven meets. As well, the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules should be revised to put everyone on equal footing. Africa must be given a central and leading role in any internationally formed new order, as it is on this continent that the battle against inequality will be won or lost. In alliance with Africa, the French chairmanship of the Group of Seven will look at these issues, he said.
“At a time where our collective system is falling apart, sadly, it is most in demand,” he said, adding that France will be there to remind everyone that nationalism always leads to defeat. If courage is lacking in the defence of fundamental principles, global war is a threat. Member States must find that courage again and renew the commitment to prevent the future scourge of war. Ways and means to secure global peace must be identified. Acknowledging that some might be tired of multilateralism, he implored people to resist the urge to view it as “trendy”. It was genocide that led to the United Nations, he said, recalling the atrocities of the Second World War and the complacency of the international community at that time. But France is a country that has always fought for universality, he said, imploring people to not succumb to indifference and to not accept history unravelling. “Our children are watching,” he said. “Let us do this on a human level.”
DANNY FAURE, President of Seychelles, said that 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela, his legacy of democracy, equality and peace is more relevant than ever. He urged Member States to reflect on the true purpose of the United Nations and called for a renewed commitment to the Organization’s Charter and its founding principles. Cooperation is critical to the continued peace and prosperity of all nations, he said.
The international system faces challenges that require targeted approaches to benefit vulnerable populations and fully embrace the promises of the Sustainable Development Goals, he continued. Because strong institutions are essential to vibrant democracies and ensuring respect for international law, advanced economies should support the strengthening of institutions in developing countries through sharing of expertise and best practices.
Peace and prosperity cannot be disassociated from the effects of climate change and its existential threat to the world as a whole, he stressed. Neglecting the effects of climate change will pass on to the next generation a world beyond repair. If States do not uphold climate commitments, they will face an inescapable crisis.
Turning to the theme of the seventy-third session of the General Assembly — “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: Global leadership and shared responsibility for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies” — he said the words “sustainable societies” are particularly relevant to small island developing States. His country aligns itself with the African Union in its call for United Nations Security Council reform, including equitable representation of African States.
On economic development, he said that Seychelles pioneered a Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Road Map to multiply the potential of its territorial waters while also protecting them for future generations. The country is shifting from dependence on bilateral aid to developing innovative sources of financing for its emerging blue economy. As well, Seychelles continues to call for a vulnerability and resilience index that accounts for the unique vulnerabilities of small island developing States, he said.
MARTÍN ALBERTO VIZCARRA CORNEJO, President of Peru, highlighted reforms he recently put in place to fight corruption as his country overcame a political crisis. Peru will promote the adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution on corruption, with the goal of strengthening cooperation in this area, he stated, recalling that that scourge deviates 5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) every year to enrich a few at the expense of those in need.
Peru is one of the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, he said. It needs to emerge from poverty and requires investments to foster growth because the poorest segments of the population are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals — which have been included in its national development plan — Peru intends to involve citizens and the private sector. He stressed that special efforts will be made to overcome the structural inequalities that women and girls face, guarantee their human rights and empower them.
Noting that nationalist discourses promoting protectionism, discrimination and xenophobia are resurfacing, he reaffirmed Peru’s commitment to multilateralism and free trade. He called on other countries to make the same commitment and avoid protectionist practices.
He reiterated his “unshakable solidarity” with the people of Venezuela, and called for an urgent response to the severe humanitarian crisis in that country and the massive flow of migrants and refugees it has caused in the entire region.
ABDULLAH II IBN AL HUSSEIN, King of Jordan, stressed the importance of collective action in ending the serious crises in the Middle East, especially the long denial of a Palestinian State. The Palestinian people have equal rights to a future of peace, dignity and hope. Only a two‑State solution based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions can meet the needs of both sides: a viable, independent, sovereign Palestinian State on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a secure Israel, fully part of its own region, recognized by Arab and Muslim States around the world. Describing a one-State solution as “ugly and undemocratic”, he said, “it is by no means an alternative to a two‑State peace settlement”.
Rejecting unilateral measures, he stressed the need to fully fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other vital efforts in support of families and young people. “It would be a terrible mistake to abandon youth to the forces of radicalism and despair,” he said. Turning to the need to safeguard the heritage and peace of Jerusalem, he noted that Jordan carries out a duty as the Hashemite Custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
Jordan will also continue to support all multilateral efforts to help Syria achieve a political solution, based on the Geneva process, and United Nations Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), he said. An effective global response to terror also requires continued collective action, which pairs security measures with strong initiatives to support inclusion and hope. There is a need, online or offline, to counter ideologies of hatred, including Islamophobia. Jordanians have led efforts to unite the world in mutual respect and understanding.
On the global refugee crisis, he said that his country has carried a “massive, disproportionate” burden as a host. “Our people have opened their homes, schools, public services, and hospitals. We have shared our country’s scarce resources, our food and energy, our precious water,” he reported. This has held back economic growth and job creation. While Jordanians have borne the refugee burden in full accord with their long humanitarian traditions, he stressed that burden is a shared global responsibility.
“The world cannot address the refugee crisis, or any global crisis, unless we work tougher to support those who are doing the right thing for the future we all share,” he stated. Peace and prosperity demand constant and collective action. He called for all Member States to give the world’s people, especially youth, confidence in global justice, hope for new opportunities and international laws, and agreements that everyone can rely on.
SHEIKH TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL-THANI, Emir of Qatar, said the world faces challenges that cross boundaries and must be dealt with according to international law and without double standards. To those ends, he called for the reform of the United Nations. The illegal blockade imposed on Qatar was the result of a pre‑arranged campaign, based on fabrication. Despite the challenges that blockade created, his country experienced a strengthening of status and consolidation of its role as an active partner in regional and international arenas. He expressed appreciation for the assistance of friendly nations in ending the crisis, adding that differences in views on regional issues should not paralyse the effectiveness of important regional organizations like the Gulf Cooperation Council, as it harms their international reputation.
Little progress has been made on lingering issues in the Middle East, he said, citing the political stalemate in Palestine. The deterioration of the situation in the Palestinian territories lays a historic responsibility on the Security Council, he said, reaffirming the importance of negotiations and emphasizing the commitment to the resolutions of international legitimacy, including the two-State solution and the Arab peace initiative. His country will continue to provide material and political support to the Palestinian people.
Regarding the ongoing crisis in Syria, he said the failure to deter that country’s regime from committing crimes will render the provisions of international and human rights law devoid of any meaning and will further raise the existing ceiling on the use of violence against people in his region. The humanitarian, moral and legal catastrophe in that country requires the international community to double its efforts to find a peaceful solution. Regarding the situation in Yemen, he called on all parties to end the conflict based on Security Council resolution 2216 (2015). Advocating for free access for humanitarian assistance in all areas in Yemen, he announced Qatar’s agreement with the United Nations to fight cholera in Yemen by supporting projects addressing the disease there. Regarding the Libyan crisis, he said the security and territorial integrity of the country were at stake. Foreign intervention in Libyan affairs only complicates the crisis and contradicts Security Council resolutions. In Iraq, he praised the efforts of the Government to restore stability and national reconciliation in its fight against terrorism.
Terrorism has become one of the world’s outstanding challenges, he said, affirming his country’s prioritizing of the issue on every level. In order to achieve success in the war on terrorism, four prerequisites must be met. First, there must be international cooperation in combatting violence resulting from extremism and violence against civilians. Second, standards of fighting terrorism must be unified so that there is a universal definition not dependent on religion or ethnicity. Third, the roots and causes of terrorism must be addressed in the political, social and cultural spheres. Lastly, it is crucial to avoid giving partisan connotation to the term “terrorist”. Educating youth is the first line of defence for the collective security system and crucial in fighting terrorism. To that end, his country, in collaboration with the United Nations, has committed to educating 10 million children and providing economic empowerment to half a million young people.
Highlighting the importance of the protection of human rights in Qatar, he said his country had recently passed a law regulating political asylum in the country and has invited several international human rights organizations to establish regional offices there. In conclusion, he emphasized the need for freedom of access in the cybersphere and the need to protect citizens against hacking and the importance of national cybersecurity.
HASSAN ROUHANI, President of Iran, said the world is suffering from recklessness and some States’ disregard for international values and institutions. The idea that peace and security can be secured at the cost of denying it to others is an illusion that should be cast away. “Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength; rather, it is a symptom of weakness of intellect,” he stated, adding that those who seek dominance and hegemony are enemies of peace.
The current administration of the United States seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual, he said. Pointing out that that country’s withdrawal from the nuclear accord contravened international law, he emphasized that any further talks should take place within the framework and in continuation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). “It is ironic that the [United States] Government does not even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same Government it invites to talks,” he added.
Reaffirming his respect for the non‑proliferation treaty and the long negotiations with the permanent five members of the Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5+1, that led to the Plan of Action, he said he was pleased that the international community did not acquiesce to the United States’ unilateral and illegal withdrawal from the accord. He recalled that the Plan of Action was unanimously approved by the Security Council, and that all countries and international and regional organizations were called upon to support its implementation.
Underscoring that Iran has thus far complied with all its commitments according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he criticized the United States for resorting to a flimsy excuse to justify its withdrawal from the accord and pressuring other countries to violate it. He deplored that the United States threatens countries and international organizations with punishment if they comply with Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). He expressed appreciation for the efforts of the international community, European Union, Russian Federation and China in supporting the implementation of the Plan of Action.
“Unlawful unilateral sanctions in themselves constitute a form of ‘economic terrorism’,” he underscored. The policy of engagement and cooperation with Iran has produced a positive outcome, he added, drawing attention to Iran’s cooperation with other countries in the fight against terrorism. While acknowledging that, at the end of the day, there is no other way than dialogue, he expressed objection to the United States’ bullying and stressed that no State or nation can be brought to the negotiation table by force. International security should not be a toy used in United States domestic politics, and dialogue can restart if “threats and unjust sanctions that negate the principle of ethics and international law” are ended, he said.
Recalling that Iran has been a victim of terrorism in the past and again recently, he expressed commitment to the fight against the scourge no matter who the victims are. He warned against any foreign intervention in Syria and Yemen, and emphasized that the crisis in these countries can only be resolved through internal dialogue. The most pressing question in the Middle East remains the situation in Palestine, he stated, adding that “the passage of time cannot and must not justify occupation”. Citing “the recent enactment of the racist Jewish State law” as a manifestation of apartheid, he said Israel presents the most daunting threat to global peace.
SAULI NIINISTÖ, President of Finland, voiced strong support for multilateral cooperation while warning that there is reason to be worried for all those who believe in its benefits. The international system is visibly under pressure and its capability and credibility are being questioned. Countries can no longer take the international rules-based order for granted. “It is our common responsibility to actively defend and develop it,” he said, describing the United Nations as the core of that system and urging its Member States to show their will to act together — “not past each other”.
While expressing support for the Secretary-General’s reform agenda, aimed at ensuring that the United Nations of the future is more transparent, accountable and efficient, he underscored that the Organization must practice what it preaches for it to be credible. Any case of sexual exploitation among the United Nations own ranks is one case too many. In addition, many of today’s global challenges cross the boundaries between the pillars of peace and security, human rights and development, and many of the Organization’s recent achievements — including the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees — reflect that interlinked nature. However, more action is still needed on those issues, including efforts to ensure that global temperature rise is kept to well below 2°C.
“In the North, we are witnessing how the Arctic region is warming at an alarming pace,” he said, emphasizing that the challenge was not just a regional one but also a threat to the entire global climate system. Left unchecked, climate change will also lead to a further increase in migration flows, adding to the 65 million people who are already displaced.
Full-scale wars, conflicts of varying intensity and breaches of international law continue, he said. Urging the international community to remain persistent in their effort to resolve such conflicts, he nevertheless spotlighted positive developments including a genuine dialogue between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the international community, bringing momentum towards a peaceful Korean Peninsula. “A successful outcome in that region could set a powerful example for non-proliferation and disarmament elsewhere, too.”
Turning to peacekeeping, he said the relevance of United Nations blue helmets remains beyond doubt. However, they also need to adapt to changing realities, he said, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative to make United Nations peacekeeping more effective. While mediation is a valuable conflict prevention tool, peace and security, human rights and development are not sustainable without the participation of women and youth. “Female voices and young voices must be heard and acted upon,” he stressed, highlighting the work of the Nordic network of women mediators and its support for related global campaigns such as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women’s (UN-Women) HeForShe initiative.
MUHAMMADU BUHARI, President of Nigeria, said Africans took pride in the way former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan served humanity in an exemplary manner. The international community is witnessing positive results from bilateral and multilateral efforts to address conflicts and threats to world peace, he said, pointing to recent commitments by the United States and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. However, other crises have deteriorated.
The international community must strengthen its resolve to combat ethnic and religious cleansing everywhere, including Myanmar, he said, where Rohingya refugees must be able to return to their homes with guarantees of security and citizenship. Carnage in Syria and Yemen continues unabated and he called for negotiated political solutions to those crises. The situation in the Middle East is worsening and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is the result of unrestrained use of power. He reaffirmed support for a just two-State solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian crisis. Terrorist insurgencies continue to affect the Sahel and Lake Chad regions, increasingly fuelled by the international Jihadi movement.
He said irregular migration entails avoidable loss of lives and strains all countries affected by migration flows. He welcomed the successful conclusion of negotiations on the first-ever Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and looked forward to its adoption later this year. Climate change is contributing to irregular migration and negatively impacting the livelihood of those around the Lake Chad region, leading to instability in the subregion.
Turning to corruption, he noted that illicit flows of funds across borders negatively impact the stability, peace and economic prospects of millions of people in developing countries. Corruption deprives Governments of resources to provide meaningful livelihoods to their populations. It is in the collective interest of all States to cooperate in tracking illicit financial flows, and investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals.
Stressing that current challenges can only be addressed through multilateral cooperation and concerted action, he reiterated the call for strengthening the United Nations and speeding reforms of the Security Council, with expanded membership in line with prevailing international consensus. Nigeria is mobilizing the human and material resources to achieve United Nations goals, including those outlined in the 2030 Agenda.
MATAMELA CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, President of South Africa, said nearly a quarter of a century has elapsed since Nelson Mandela stood at the Assembly’s podium, declaring that millions of his people looked to the United Nations “to bring them a life worth living”. Asking if those hopes have been met, he said the Organization is still called upon to ask what it must do to achieve peace, reconciliation and stability around the globe. Welcoming the 24 September adoption of a political declaration marking 2019–2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace, he said the Organization is obliged to truly become what the people of the world want it to be: A voice for all, including the poor and marginalized, around the globe.
“During the dark days of colonialism and apartheid, we drew strength, inspiration and encouragement from the United Nations,” he said. Today, he said, South Africa is making strides in dealing with apartheid’s ugly legacy, including undertaking reforms to ensure that land “belongs to all who work it” and attracting millions of dollars in foreign investment. As world leaders assemble today, they must commit to forging a more fair, equal United Nations that is better equipped to end the struggles against poverty and discrimination. Those challenges are most pronounced in Africa, which is “living in the age of youth” and bears a special responsibility to place young people and women at the centre of its affairs. “It is young people who are fighting the wars that we started” and women who bear the brunt of conflicts, he stressed, underlining the urgency of measures needed to end wars, death, destruction and human suffering.
Emphasizing that commitments to address terrorism and end protracted disputes must be coupled with resources and action, he spotlighted the long‑standing plights of the Palestinian people and Western Sahara, both of whom possess inalienable human rights. He also called for efforts to address youth unemployment and educational opportunities that are appropriate to the changing world of work. The potential of the digital revolution must be effectively harnessed to promote social justice as well as human progress, he stressed, also calling for stronger and more global institutions. Indeed, he said, the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and others need to be revamped to better meet the needs of all peoples around the world. “We must resist any and all efforts to undermine the multilateral approach to trade” which is central to the global economy’s stability and predictability, he stressed, adding that history has demonstrated that no country can prosper alone.
Spotlighting the potential of the 2030 Agenda to tackle those challenges and “turn implementation into impact”, he said African nations are working more closely together to rid the continent of underdevelopment and conflict while promoting the rule of law and human rights. For example, he said, the recently agreed African Continental Free Trade Area will give rise to a new industrial age in the region. “Africa has the potential to be the next great frontier for global growth and development” with major investments in education, good governance, health care and large-scale industrial capacity aimed at lifting millions of people out of poverty. “The youth of Africa are poised to transform their continent,” he said, reiterating South Africa’s determination to always be a force for good, peace, development and progress around the globe.
ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA, President of Malawi, urged the General Assembly to raise the flag of peace in honour of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, asserting that peace must be guarded by all. The Assembly cannot stand proud while people around the world are forced to abandon their countries and while innocent children, women and men are being killed. Every human needs a home, every life is precious, he asserted, adding that there is a shared responsibility to seek and defend peace.
He said the relevance of the United Nations rests on its ability to satisfy the needs of people across the world, including Africans. Every nation is important and every nation has something to offer. However, those with more resources and power must step up and offer more. Global leadership must be defined in terms of global responsibility and Malawi is prepared to fulfil its responsibilities and obligations, he said.
He acknowledged the sacrifices being made by United Nations peacekeepers and expressed pride in Malawi’s active membership in peacekeeping operations, including ongoing efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He said Malawi supports United Nations efforts to galvanize international cooperation in promoting socioeconomic development and remains committed to the 2030 Agenda. The priorities of the United Nations are also Malawi’s priorities.
The plight of refugees and migrants is a concern to the people of Malawi, he said, expressing his belief in the collective responsibility to ensure the protection of refugees. Malawi is actively part of a United Nations initiative to develop a comprehensive refugee response framework to be rolled out within its national development strategy. Turning to climate change, he said its consequences are real, devastating and often tragic and urged all relevant actors to fight for the bending of the curve of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.
He said Malawi is endeavouring to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by 2030 and that inclusive economic growth is essential to reducing poverty. Malawi’s economy has stabilized with inflation having been reduced from 24 per cent to the single digits and with its GDP expected to grow by 6 per cent in 2019. He said Malawi supports United Nations reform efforts, including the call for two permanent, veto-holding seats for African States in the Security Council. The United Nations cannot preach democracy while it itself is unrepresentative, he said, calling for the Organization to be relevant to all people.
JIMMY MORALES, President of Guatemala, expressed appreciation for the solidarity shown by the international community and humanitarian organizations with his country, which in 3 June suffered human losses and material damages in the wake of a volcano eruption. Today is an opportunity to reflect on the role of the United Nations in the world order. His country prides itself in its strong will to peacefully resolve territorial issues. Over the past century and a half, it has had a maritime dispute with Belize. In 2018, a popular vote was held, with 96 per cent of voters in favour of bringing the case to the International Court of Justice. He welcomed a decision by Belize to set a date for their vote in 2019 and eagerly awaits the outcome of their vote. The resolution of this dispute will bring economic and social benefits to both nations.
He said Central America’s economic integration continues to progress. In 2018, a historic step was made with the establishment of the customs union between Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, meaning that more than 80 per cent of the bilateral trade will enjoy free transit of goods thanks to tariff harmonization. This integration turned three countries into one market with 32 million people. According to World Bank data, the border crossing time was reduced from 55‑60 hours to 15 minutes.
Guatemala’s fight against transnational threats is unprecedented in the region, he continued. In the last two years, Guatemalan security forces, in collaboration with state agencies in the United States, seized more than 471 million poppy plants, with a value of $1.4 billion, and seized 34,000 kilogrammes of cocaine and 400 per cent more heroin than in previous years. This meant it seized more drugs in the last two years than in the last eight years combined. Guatemala has made significant progress in combating corruption and improving transparency. Its initiative and open Government mechanism has now moved to the third national action plan 2016‑2018. Guatemala worked hard to meet the international standards of tax transparency and ratified a convention, which moves Guatemala out of the list of countries considered as tax havens.
Guatemala respects the sovereignty of other countries, he said. After four decades of internal armed conflict, his country moved to the harder task of building and maintaining peace. The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was created in December 2006, when the United Nations and his country signed an agreement setting up the Commission as an independent body charged with investigating and prosecuting serious crimes in Guatemala. Although the body has helped strengthen his country’s democratic institutions, his Government has decided not to extend its mandate because it has interfered in the internal affairs of Guatemala. He also denounced the excessive use of force and power by the Commission and illegal pretrial detention, requesting the United Nations Secretary-General appoint a new commissioner for the body.
Guatemala has designed a technology called “biobars” whose objective is to decontaminate rivers, beaches, seas and oceans, he said. The country continues to work hard in the implementation of the 2016‑2020 national strategy for prevention of chronic malnutrition, which is directly related to the objectives of sustainable development — putting an end to hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition.
ABDEL FATTAH AL SISI, President of Egypt, pointed to a flaw in the international system, which negatively affects its performance and casts a dark shadow over its credibility in the eyes of many people, particularly in the Arab and African regions. “Developing countries can ill afford to exist in an international order, which is not governed by laws,” he continued. There is no doubt that the Arab region is one of the most vulnerable to the dangers of nation State disintegration, and the ensuing creation of a fertile environment for terrorism and the exacerbation of conflict, he said.
There can be no way out of the crisis in Syria and the plight of Yemen, except by restoring the nation State, preserving its sovereignty and Government institutions, he said. Expressing support for the United Nations–led political solution in those two countries, he said the same principle applies to the policy in Libya, where Egypt plays a pivotal role in support of rebuilding the State. A year has passed since the adoption of the United Nations action plan on Libya. And despite the commendable efforts of the Organization in numerous conflicts, including South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Mali, many have fallen short of finding permanent settlements to such disputes, he said.
“We cannot talk about the peaceful settlement of disputes without citing the Palestinian cause,” he continued, adding that the situation there is a “perfect example” of the failure of the international system to find a just solution to a conflict. Political will to resume negotiations and achieve a settlement is key. “I repeat here what I have said in previous years on this platform, the Arabs are still stretching out their hands in peace,” he said.
Pledging commitment to sustainable development, he emphasized the critical need to “tackle the financing for development conundrum”. That can be achieved through the creation of an enabling environment which allows for the free flow of resources necessary for development, without imposing any conditionalities. He welcomed the United Nations serving as a platform for developing ideas to achieve this reform. He emphasized the importance of strengthening partnerships between the United Nations and regional organizations, to meet the rising challenges the international community faces at the political, economic and developmental levels.
Egypt will shortly resume the presidency of the African Union in 2019, he said, adding his Government was looking forward to strengthening the strategic partnership between the Union and the United Nations. Egypt plans to implement the initiative launched during its membership of the United Nations Security Council focused on boosting cooperation to counter-terrorism and the terrorist narrative. Egypt needs to also address the major shortcomings in the international community’s handling of human rights issues. He said that Egypt has a solid constitutional foundation for the protection of human rights. Major strides have been achieved in the field of women and youth empowerment. Women now hold 25 per cent of the ministerial posts and more than 15 per cent of the seats in Parliament, he said.
MARIO ABDO BENÍTEZ, President of Paraguay, said that in an increasingly interconnected world, the global community must collectively rise to challenges, with the General Assembly representing the voice of all nations. However, the Security Council must become more inclusive and democratic to better serve the world and future generations. Supporting the Secretary‑General’s broad reform efforts across the Organization, he said an efficient and transparent United Nations must play its crucial role in helping Member States to implement the 2030 Agenda, particularly landlocked developing countries. Indeed, world leaders must take up the fight against poverty, addressing it as a human problem and not simply an economic indicator, he said, providing examples of how Paraguay is tackling poverty‑related challenges by widening access to education and boosting collective prosperity, with a focus on youth, persons with disabilities and women.
Turning to global challenges, he said terrorism and transnational crime continues to plague many nations. For its part, Paraguay launched a campaign to combat the drug trafficking and continues to work with allies to crush crime in all its forms. To address global climate change challenges, the world faces a crucial decision — to stop it now or to deny it and continue to worsen the situation. States committed to the Paris Agreement on climate change must work to implement it. Doing so is part of Paraguay’s strategic development vision, as is fighting corruption and impunity while strengthening institutions.
Highlighting national achievements and concerns, he said Paraguay has one of the most open economies and supported economic integration. However, some countries in his region are dealing with dictatorships. Still, every nation faces specific challenges while moving towards sustainable development, with vulnerable States requiring special attention, including landlocked developing countries, who needed targeted efforts to boost trade. He urged States, particularly trading partners and transit countries, to consider those needs. Turning to issues of security, he said Paraguay supports the Arms Trade Treaty and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons and is committed to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Paraguay also considers that Taiwan should be included in the United Nations membership.
As the world is poised to adopt two major compacts, on orderly migration and on refugees, he said Paraguay has been involved in both important processes. The United Nations must continue playing a major role in ensuring full respect for human rights and fundamental freedom for all people. The 2030 Agenda is the beginning of a change that will impact present and future generations. The success of the agreement will depend on how committed States are, he said, appealing to the world alliance to work towards achieving all the 2030 Agenda goals and targets.
Given the current international landscape, pockmarked with political uncertainty and a volatile economy, he said all States must forge a collective drive to tackle challenges. At this point, he said, either each State can try to impose itself on others and hope to get the best it can, or the world can work together towards common goals with multilateral instruments and through cooperation. To achieve that, efforts must be unwavering in committing to meet the many challenges of the entire human race, he concluded.
MAURICIO MACRI, President of Argentina, said his country is a trustworthy partner, seeking to make a positive impact on the twenty-first century and committed to implementing a range of measures aimed at enhancing peace, democracy and human rights. Raising several regional and global concerns, he said the human rights situation in Venezuela is worrisome, adding that Argentina will refer allegations of human rights violations to the International Criminal Court and will, as part of a regional response, host those fleeing Venezuela, providing them with needed services.
On security matters, he regretted to note that organized crime, cybercrime and terrorism continue to be grave threats that require a collective response. As such, Argentina is working with partners on initiatives to combat drug trafficking and stamp out organized crime. Highlighting recent terrorist attacks in Argentina, he said the Government is working to bring to justice those responsible. Calling on Iran to cooperate with Buenos Aires to advance the investigation on Argentina’s most brutal terrorist attack, he also asked friendly nations to provide needed information about the perpetrators.
On fostering a strategic vision of the south Atlantic Ocean, he raised the question of Malvinas*. Affirming the legitimate right of Argentina to the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, he reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to maintaining a relationship with the United Kingdom based on mutual trust.
As a strong advocate for multilateralism, he reiterated a commitment to tackling climate change challenges, expressing strong support for the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda. Also committed to strengthening global governance, he said Argentina will host a conference on South‑South cooperation and will preside over the forthcoming Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference. As the international community faces challenges, he pledged Argentina’s commitment to sustainable peace.
ALAIN BERSET, President of Switzerland, described a range of challenges including globalization, inequality, war and internal conflict, extremism, migration flows, climate change, health crises and the digital revolution. United Nations Member States must ensure that international institutions and organizations can address those challenges. However, he pointed to a “real crisis in multilateralism” when we are trying to forge the main pillars of future global governance.
Citing ongoing global crises particularly in the Middle East, he said that Switzerland is working for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on a negotiated two-State solution in compliance with international law and relevant Security Council resolutions. With the conflict in Syria entering its eighth year, the basic rules and principles of international humanitarian law and human rights are not respected. More than 13 million men, women and children depend upon humanitarian aid, demanding we step up efforts for a political solution. Similarly, in Yemen, the ongoing armed conflict has deprived millions of water, food and medical care. He called on all parties to cease hostilities and come to the negotiating table.
These conflicts bring about large-scale health issues, he continued. The spread of disease, especially in war zones and refugee camps, overburdens weakened health systems and requires vital protection of facilities and personnel to maintain access to medical care. The United Nations must be strong to fulfil its role as the cornerstone of peaceful coexistence between all States. Accordingly, Switzerland supports reform programmes launched by the Secretary-General in peace and security, development and management.
Determined to build a “better multiculturalism” beyond the talking stage, he said that his country is working to implement the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to establish a robust monitoring mechanism that provides for voluntary national reviews and progress reports. Still, efforts are needed to combat global warming and negative environmental impacts of economic development. He stressed the importance of culture and cultural diversity in stimulating economic, social and environmental sustainability.
He said that Switzerland supports the Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as respect for human dignity and fundamental rights are not optional. International cooperation is essential to preventing conflict and establishing a framework for lasting peace. He mentioned in particular the fight against impunity, as Switzerland worked for the adoption of the Rome Statute and the creation of the International Criminal Court 20 years ago.
Turning to Switzerland’s good offices, he said the country makes all necessary preparations “so that discreet peace talks of the kind undertaken by the parties to the conflicts in Syria or Yemen can take place”. As the home to several United Nations agencies, Geneva is a platform for dialogue on new challenges in politics, society, innovation, science and economics. Noting that trade protectionism and selfish interests “are enjoying a certain popularity at present”, he said such policies can only lead to a fall in trade and resulting decline in prosperity. Describing that selfishness as a “malaise”, he said, “The world is not a zero‑sum game. It is a positive‑sum game where cooperation creates only winners.”
MAITHRIPALA SIRISENA, President of Sri Lanka, noted that his country as a Member State of the United Nations has always acted in accordance with treaties and conventions of the Organization. He pointed out the satisfying progress Sri Lanka made in the last three and a half years. Noting the emperor‑like power the executive presidency possessed, he said he handed it over to the Parliament, and by so doing, democracy, the independence of the judiciary and freedom of the media have all been strengthened. Sri Lanka today is entirely different from the past, he stressed.
Recalling responsibilities and duties, he pointed to the prevalent issue of refugees as being very complex. Even though the United Nations and other organizations support refugees, he said, efforts must be more expansive. Sri Lanka, following a non-aligned foreign policy, has no enemies in the world. He voiced concern about the situation of the Palestinian people, which required greater attention, adding that he supports their struggle for freedom. He called on the United Nations to be more involved in fighting poverty, adding that hundreds of millions of people spend their day in hunger. He pointed out that the world faces many challenges in alleviating poverty and battling the consequences of climate change, saying that many efforts are needed by the heavily affected countries to be prosperous. He listed drug problems and the issue of pharmaceuticals as additional problems in their society.
He mentioned the 24 September meeting of the United Nations with the President of the United States on the global call to action on the world drug problem. Efforts are required by every country in fighting illicit drugs. He highlighted the utmost importance of the Paris Agreement, adding that his country ratified it and will take necessary actions. Concerning the conflict of the last 30 years, he pointed to the actions they took to consolidate democracy, protect human rights, strengthen national reconciliation and achieve economic prosperity, mentioning the massive transformations of the last 10 years.
He stressed that the independence of a nation is of utmost importance. To continue the process of reconciliation, he said, we do not want any foreign Power to influence us, adding, as Sri Lankans, we will find solutions to our problems, we simply need room to resolve them and the support of the United Nations. He also said that the new generation deserved to be heard. The international community should look upon Sri Lanka from a fresh perspective as it is different today.
BORUT PAHOR, President of Slovenia, said that the case for multilateralism is clear. “No State, no nation will gain if it only strives to assert its own interests,” he continued. Slovenia stands firm in defence of multilateralism with the United Nations, committed to the multifaceted system based on shared values, rule of law and human rights. Respect for international law and rule of law is a precondition to peace and security.
As a country in the Western Balkans region, Slovenia stresses the importance of international law and the judgements of international courts relating to the region’s reconciliation process, he said. Recognizing and accepting historic facts no matter how painful are the basis for stability and progress. “The Western Balkans are in need of both,” he emphasized, expressing support to the Euro‑Atlantic membership perspective in the region. Solutions must be wise, comprehensive and highly responsible, rather than cause a domino effect and negative impact.
The United Nations has been instrumental in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide, he said. No rights of States, no emergency, no political reasons can ever excuse violations of human rights. He expressed hope that the United States, a traditional promoter and supporter of human rights, will remain committed to this ideal. War, violence, extremism and terrorism always present grievous assaults on human rights. He called on all to work together to foster a culture of mutual respect for diversity.
He said that impunity represents one of the major obstacles to the prevention of grave and systematic violations of human rights. “Ending impunity is essential for the war-torn society to recover,” he added, expressing strong support for the International Criminal Court. He noted the conflicts in Syria, humanitarian disasters in Yemen and Afghanistan, growing regional tensions in the Sahel, continued violence in Libya, and the refugee crises in Myanmar and Venezuela. “We need to face these crises with determination,” he said.
Slovenia supports solving the pressing proliferation issues through diplomatic means, he said, reiterating support to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. He underscored that special attention should be paid to the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation, including in armed conflicts. Sexual and gender‑based violence presents a barrier to women’s participation in peace and post‑conflict activities. He expressed support for the 2030 Agenda and working together in cooperation and partnership to achieve myriad global goals.
EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU, President of Zambia, said little has changed in the African continent’s situation over the last seven decades. Today, however, the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 present huge opportunities for Africa to revitalize its growth and further accelerate its transformation, as both frameworks seek to achieve inclusive growth, sustainable development, peace and security. Noting that Zambia’s development path is guided by its “Vision 2030” plan — aimed at making it a prosperous middle-income country by that date — he said its successful implementation still faces many hurdles. Zambia’s economy, like those of many other developing countries, depends on commodities for economic growth and has not been spared by the negative impacts of their declining prices on the international market.
Reiterating Zambia’s determination to overcome those challenges by creating a more diversified and resilient economy driven — among other things — by agriculture, tourism and energy, he said robust infrastructure development, regional partnerships and conducive policy frameworks will also play critical roles. The country has mainstreamed the 2030 Agenda, Paris Agreement, Addis Ababa Action Agenda and Agenda 2063 into its national development plans and is focusing on such initiatives as road construction and rehabilitation; the expansion and construction of hydropower stations; the diversification of energy towards renewable sources including solar power; rehabilitating railways; and construction and modernization of airports.
Outlining some of the country’s important policy and structural reforms, he spotlighted the Economic Stabilization and Growth Programme, which improves domestic resource mobilization and modernizes revenue collection processes. Meanwhile, Zambia — mindful of the challenges in financing development as well as the declining resources and ODA being allocated to least developed nations and other countries in special situations — continues to call on all its partners to help it implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Expressing support for Council resolution 2378 (2017) on peacekeeping reform, he welcomed a stronger focus on mediation, ceasefire agreements and the monitoring and implementation of peace accords, and voiced support for the Secretary-General’s proposed Action for Peacekeeping initiative.
Zambia has increased the number of its troops in United Nations peacekeeping operations, including deployed women, he continued. In addition, his country recently took up the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, a position it will hold until August 2019. Turning to gender equality and women’s empowerment, he underlined Zambia’s commitment to eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls, noting that it implemented a “50‑50” school enrolment policy and in 2017 began distributing free sanitary towels to girls in rural and peri-urban areas to help them remain in school. Meanwhile, traditional leaders across the country have been helping to combat child marriage and forced marriage.
Noting that the world is witnessing a movement of migrants too vast for any one country to handle alone, he underlined the importance of collaborative efforts and stressed that — if well managed — migration has the potential to contribute to the socio-development of both origin and destination countries. Voicing support, in that respect, for the Global Compact for Migration, he also underscored the centrality of the principle of responsibility sharing for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees, while considering the differing capacities and resources of Member States. Expressing concern over the little progress made in reforming the Security Council, he reiterated the call for two permanent members representing Africa, declaring: “Not only is this a matter of common decency and correction of a historical injustice, but [also of] restoring the dignity of Africa.”
JOSEPH KABILA KABANGE, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, first providing a snapshot of the security situation in his country over the past year, noted significant improvements in the central region and successful efforts in the north-east in containing terrorist attacks. Peace has been consolidated, with displaced families returning to their homes, yet security challenges remain only in the north-east region in the face of terrorist activities, a threat affecting other countries in the region and across the world.
While addressing that threat and boosting security ahead of the forthcoming elections, he elaborated on recent progress on the political landscape. Commending efforts to reach a consensus on the election process and the publication of an electoral calendar, he reaffirmed the irreversible decision to hold elections before the end of 2018 despite enormous challenges in many areas. Moreover, all steps are being taken to guarantee peaceful, credible elections based on the country’s vision of consolidating the political and economic stability needed for further progress.
Turning to the session’s theme, he called on each Member State to assess its contribution to the universal whole and to protect the values upon which the United Nations is based. Given emerging development “hubs” and looming threats, some with global consequences, the Organization must adapt to rise to those challenges. Equally important is preserving the foundations of a global balance. Concerned that some States act in contravention with the Organization’s principles, he said the Democratic Republic of the Congo condemned any attempts at interfering in its forthcoming elections.
Voicing support for a return to the foundations of democracy and human rights, he said his country is proud to share its experience as a nation, having joined both regional and international forums. While the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a long road ahead, he emphasized that the United Nations can foster the growth of sustainable societies, which in turn depends on galvanizing the necessary will and honouring promises often made, but rarely kept.
Sharing a regional concern, he highlighted that African States had been, for 15 years, calling for better representation on the Security Council. Africa wants its voice to be heard in terms of the maintenance of peace and security, he said, underlining that the call is particularly urgent since most United Nations peacekeeping operations take place on the continent. Regarding the peacekeeping operation currently operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he reiterated a call for the withdrawal of the multilateral force.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo had, years ago, been relegated as a “failed State”, he said, adding that his country has overcome many obstacles on the path to peace. While the challenges ahead are great, his country will work hard to continue on that path and will stand by the United Nations. However, Member States must work for a stronger Organization, which represents the preservation of humanity.
SOORONBAI JEENBEKOV, President of Kyrgyzstan, noted that the global political, economic and environmental situation is changing rapidly, and regionalism in world politics is growing. Our global task is to prevent the spread of terrorism and extremism to all countries and preserve an ecological balance. “These issues are a matter of concern of everyone, especially small countries with open economies,” he said.
Outlining issues of national, regional and global importance, he said that the peaceful transfer of power in the fall of 2017 laid a solid foundation for his country’s progressive democratic development; this allows for the setting of ambitious goals. He noted the priority of fighting corruption, and the focus on political modernization, economic development, judicial reform and reorganization of law enforcement agencies.
Strengthening cooperation between the countries of Central Asia is the most important factor for ensuring security in the region and the world, he stated. In addition, he noted the issue of water use and the need for new approaches that aimed at sustainable development. Furthermore, noting that Kyrgyzstan is at the crossroads of drug trafficking, he said that measures taken by the international community to combat that scourge have been insufficient.
Noting the significant threat that climate change poses, he noted its contribution to natural disasters in the mountainous regions of his country, a main theme of the fourth World Mountain Forum in Kyrgyzstan. In addition, another issue is the radioactive industry of the Soviet era — uranium tailings. Thus, Kyrgyzstan held several international conferences.
The global problems of today require joint work, he said, as well as new international mechanisms that are adequate to modern threats. The Organization needs change to deal with present realities. Drawing attention to the problems that small States face in the United Nations, Kyrgyzstan put forward its candidacy for a non‑permanent seat on the Security Council for 2027‑2028. He noted Kyrgyzstan’s initiative to hold the World Nomad Games, and ended by quoting writer and humanist Chingiz Aitmatov: “There is no greater wealth for a man than to live together and peacefully.”
ADAMA BARROW, President of the Gambia, said no country can thrive in isolation amid complex global multilateral challenges, with our salvation as human beings resting in strengthening multilateral institutions and greater international cooperation. “The UN uniquely provides the opportunity to achieve this goal,” he added. Noting the irony of underfunding the United Nations in that context, he called upon Member States to step up support.
Turning to his own country, he noted that after a difficult political impasse in 2016, the Gambia had restored democracy and the rule of law, completing its national electoral process and further pursuing institutional and electoral reforms. With Gambians yearning to oversee their destiny, the Government is implementing a national development plan (2018–2021) to transform the country through infrastructural development, agricultural transformation, macroeconomic stability, job creation and employment. Aiming to deliver “a fully transformed Gambia that has a future”, they have begun to harness information and communications technology (ICT) to catalyse modernization and youth empowerment. The plan is consistent with the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
Saying he recognized the “importance of a meaningful engagement with the Gambian diaspora — fondly referred to as ‘the eighth region of the Gambia’”, the strategy seeks to utilize the talents and resources of Gambians everywhere. In that regard, there has been a decrease in young people making dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean to Europe. Strongly urging incentivized intervention to curb youth migration, he looked forward to the high-level conference in Morocco to adopt a new Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
As a member of the Sahel, the Gambia fully supports implementation of the new United Nations Support Plan for the region, anchored in the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel. As the new strategy views the Sahel as a land of opportunity, not hopelessness, he sees it yielding important dividends for Africa, especially in peace, security and the elimination of terrorism. Aiming to “fulfil our aspiration of silencing the gun on the African continent by 2020”, he worried that United Nations peacekeeping missions will suffer from drastic budget cuts and lack of critical resources and called for appropriate reforms.
“As Africans, we must assume leadership for maintaining peace and security on our continent,” he said, commending Ethiopia and Eritrea for “extraordinary efforts” to bring peace to the Horn of Africa, and South Sudan for agreeing to restore peace and work for development. He called on Libya and the Central African Republic to intensify their efforts. Internationally, he affirmed support for the two-State solution for peace between the Palestinians and their neighbours, offered unconditional recognition of the One-China policy and recognized the support of Bangladesh in addressing the plight of Rohingya Muslims. As Chair of the next Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit, he said the Gambia will champion an accountability mechanism to “ensure that perpetrators of terrible crimes against the Rohingya Muslims are brought to book”.
HILDA C. HEINE, President of the Marshall Islands, said that the United Nations serves as a common platform for every nation, especially for the vulnerable. At present, nations are pulling in new directions, stretching the threads which hold us together. It is imperative that Member States continue to unite behind an international rules‑based order which does not overlook the voices of the most vulnerable peoples.
Human rights are a universal ideal which all must aspire to and uphold, she said, noting that the Human Rights Council has the potential to lend transparency and dialogue. “While we must take more time to connect global norms, the United Nations must never hesitate to stand up to actors who would seek to evade what everyone else might see as common decency,” she said, adding that from our own history the Marshall Islands knows the dire consequences which arise when the international community looks the other way because of political expediency. Thus, the Marshall Islands has put forward its candidacy for the Human Rights Council for 2020‑2022.
Small nations have a unique role within the multilateral system, she said. Affirming the threat of climate change, she noted that now we must spend time on advocacy, “time that we do not have”. She affirmed the Secretary-General’s 2019 Climate Summit, which will provide an opportunity to put the Paris Agreement into motion. She announced the Marshall Islands is transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050. “In raising our ambition, I know we will not be alone,” she said, adding that climate change is the greatest security threat to our region. The political will must extend to atoll nations like the Marshall Islands, whose very survival is at risk.
The United Nations Oceans Summit set the stage to ensure that oceans must no longer be in an isolated silo — but be an integral part of sustainable development and global commitment, she continued. The Marshall Islands is more than 99 per cent ocean. “It is our culture, our primary economic pathway and our identity,” she said. Next week the Marshall Islands will host a relaunching of a regional initiative for an illegal-, unreported- and unregulated-free Pacific to eradicate illegal fishing from the region.
Underlining her role as the first woman Head of State in the independent Pacific islands region, she said it is vital that the United Nations accelerate efforts to ensure that all women, especially the youngest, have a rightful role at all levels of decision-making.
Noting the need to adapt and change, she said that especially included the Security Council. In addition, decolonization and human rights are both important issues in the Pacific islands region and she affirmed the position of the Pacific Island Forum leaders in the constructive engagement by its members with Indonesia with respect to elections and human rights in West Papua.
DANILO MEDINA SÁNCHEZ, President of the Dominican Republic, noted that despite the central role of the United Nations in maintaining a more stable, secure world for all, we can never consider that stability a definitive achievement nor lower our guard. In the Latin American and Caribbean region, 35 per cent of the population still belongs to “the so-called ‘vulnerable class’”, meaning they can fall back into poverty at any setback. “Living peacefully and without fear is almost a utopia because of the control exercised by organized crime” in territories in the Americas and worldwide, he said, identifying climate change, drug trafficking and organized crime as main threats to stability and global security.
Addressing the increasing frequency of natural hazards, he said that the typhoon that recently hit the Philippines “with a force not seen in decades” and the cyclonic seasons in the Caribbean mean “there’s not a safe spot on the planet”. Adding the impact of Hurricane Irma on Havana, how Hurricane Maria claimed human lives and brought economic losses to Puerto Rico, Antigua and Barbuda, and other Caribbean areas, he affirmed his country’s strong commitment to preventing the consequences of climate change. The work of building, preparing and raising awareness must begin at the local level where the daily life of people develops, which is where his Government is improving resilience and relocating communities living around important watersheds vulnerable to weather phenomena.
However, efforts must also be national and international, he continued. At the national level, his country is planting millions of trees and investing in renewable energy as never before, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2030. However, he added, the fight against climate change is everyone’s task, urgently requiring the financing and operationalizing of such initiatives as the Warsaw International Mechanism to compensate for the destruction of infrastructure and ecosystems and protect residents. As an example, the storms Olga and Maria caused $1 billion worth of infrastructure damage in his country.
Turning to the threat of drug trafficking, he said it claims thousands of lives, mainly young ones, every year, also permeating national institutions, unbalancing economies, threatening values and degrading the social fabric. Similarly, “wherever organized crime arrives, the security and peace of our people deteriorates over time”. As with climate change, the fight against drugs must be local, national and international. He cited local intervention in his country that focuses on prevention campaigns, education and training for the young, as well as improving neighbourhoods and recovering public spaces. At the national level, security forces and the National Drug Control Department are fighting narcotics trafficking across the country.
Internationally, the country has bilateral and multilateral agreements with the United States, European Union and Central American Integration System countries, and participates in the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. Calling for deeper international coordination, he stated that countries whose domestic demand for drugs has “set in motion the international machinery of drug trafficking and organized crime” must show greater commitment. He added that developing nations act as the first barrier, “thus protecting the most developed countries”. As with climate change, developed countries with greater consumption capacity must deploy more resources, cooperation and political will “if we really mean to fight this phenomenon with any hope of victory”. If the United Nations and developed countries want to fight poverty, the two fronts of drug trafficking and climate change “are a smart, humane and cost-effective way to do it”.
BAKIR IZETBEGOVIĆ, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, called for putting gender equality and empowerment of women at the top of the agenda, noting that María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the President of the General Assembly, is only the fourth woman to hold that position. He deplored the fact that much still must be done in terms of progress, adding that old conflicts have been magnified and new ones created. These crises shake entire regions. Peace, security and prosperity remain a distant hope in the lives of victims of different kinds of crises like armed attacks, persecution, marginalization, human rights violations, natural hazards and migration, he said.
He said that the adherence to multilateralism, international law and rules-based order is the only hope and way to resolve the current challenges like climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, migrations, human rights, security and conflict resolution, stressing that all States must work together in dialogue and cooperation in solving these issues. The dark chapters of our history are a direct result of the community of nations failing to uphold rules and norms, he said. Respecting human dignity and protecting fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens wanting to live in a peaceful world are the United Nations raison d'être. “No Government can focus only on delivering stability and prosperity to its own people while ignoring what goes on beyond its national borders,” he said. The United Nations is the only forum where voices of small and large countries are heard equally. Welcoming efforts of reforming the United Nations, he voiced Bosnia and Herzegovina’s support and commitment.
Upholding the rules-based global order and rule of law, and strong leadership and engagement of the United Nations, he said, are indispensable in crises areas such as Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Libya, deploring that our responses are marked by inaction and indifference to human suffering and violations of human rights. He pointed to the Middle East, Syria being in its eighth year of crisis, the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons, the constant rise of civilian casualties and the deteriorating humanitarian situation. He also noted the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict lasting for more than 50 years and holding a region hostage, adding that national interest cannot be justified when a large segment of the population lacks basic services and means to sustain life. Commenting on violent terrorism and extremism and the threat of radicalization, he stressed that the world’s response must be decisive, coherent, comprehensive and grounded in the international counter-terrorism framework.
Nuclear weapons and their proliferation remain a grave threat to our civilization, he said, adding that the stakes are as high as ever. Its prevention and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction concern the survival of humankind. He voiced support for the Secretary-General’s vision of mainstreaming conflict prevention and peacebuilding as United Nations priorities, mentioning Bosnia and Herzegovina’s participation in peacekeeping missions in over 130 countries and organizations.
On the 2030 Agenda as the most powerful connector, he pointed to its implementation as the most important way to global peace, security and prosperity. He added that the Agenda is a catalyst for sustainable and inclusive development rooted in respect for economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, and as the best prevention against conflicts and instability. The protection and promotion of the values and principles of the United Nations is an obligation of all countries. “If any of us lack the will to uphold these values and principles, then all our endeavours will be less valuable and less successful,” he said.
FILIPE JACINTO NYUSI, President of Mozambique, acknowledged the role of the United Nations in promoting dialogue and solving conflict, as a forum for multilateral dialogue in globally assumed agendas. Saying “an unequal and fractured world requires multilateralism to address its gaps”, he cited the implementation of the Paris Agreement and efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons and to regulate migration. With the promotion of human rights, good governance and financing for development as key points, he called for support of the Secretary-General’s reform of the United Nations system so the Organization can be adequate to its purpose. Commending the Secretary-General’s inclusive approach, he said Member States must resolve differences for more effective cooperation.
Expressing deep concern for flashpoints and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, he said Mozambique also follows tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Fighting recruitment and financing of terrorist groups will aid development. His country supports self-determination for Western Sahara and the two-State solution to resolve the Palestinian issue. Appealing for the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, he said that he is personally committed to the search for peace. In his own country, he started dialogue that led to consensus and approval of an amendment to the Constitution introducing an innovative approach to resolving conflicts, a milestone in the history of his nation, meaning the next elections will be held without armed parties. Those elections will prove Mozambique’s commitment to democracy, but the country still needs more assistance in disarmament and demobilization. While committed to peace, he resolves to continue the fight against organized crime which threatens development, aiming to neutralize criminals in the northern regions, as we cannot think about human rights when the very right to life is jeopardized.
Aligning his country’s national agenda with the 2030 Agenda, he said this will lead to a just, equitable society and broaden social justice in his nation, particularly for women and youth “and not leaving anyone behind”. Social justice requires gender equality, and his country has made significant strides in that domain, also prioritizing access to food, water, nutritional security and sanitation. Increasing productivity and livestock will also help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. While stating that corruption remains a scourge, his Government has worked for good governance, strengthening institutions and respecting the separation of powers.
As one of the countries most exposed to the effects of climate change, he said Mozambique continues to take measures in accordance with the Paris Agreement, devoting 25 per cent of its territory to the conservation of biodiversity, developing renewable energies in rural areas and working to ensure the protection of ecosystems and sharing of benefits. Appealing for international cooperation in sharing technological means, and reiterating the unconditional commitment of his country to the critical role of the United Nations in solving humanity’s problems, he called for continuing to be “faithful” to those ideals.
SHINZŌ ABE, Prime Minister of Japan, pledging to do his utmost to strengthen a free-trade system and clear the post-war structure from North-East Asia, highlighted the remarkable growth his own country has enjoyed. Indeed, the free-trade system has enabled many Asian countries to foster a middle-class because of a rules-based, free and open international economic system. Japan has now taken on a mission of imparting to the world the benefits of trade, he said, underlining achievements such as a European Union partnership agreement, a commitment to the WTO and new trade talks with the United States. Sharing examples of the latter, he noted that Japan’s direct investment has created 856,000 jobs in the United States.
Japan also stands ready to work with other nations and regions, he continued, spotlighting talks with the President of the Russian Federation to overcome a 70-year-old deadlock between the two countries. Upon the conclusion of a Japanese-Russian peace treaty, the peace and prosperity of East Asia will be strengthened, he added. Recalling that one year ago he had, before the General Assembly, urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to resolve its abductions, nuclear and missile issues, he said now the country is at a crossroads. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has both untapped natural resources and a labour force whose productivity can be greatly enhanced, he said, adding that “we will be unstinting in our assistance to unleash the potential” the country holds and will also bring about the return of all Japanese abductees. To resolve the abductions issue, he will “break the shell of mutual distrust” with Pyongyang and “get off to a new start”, meeting face to face with Chairman Kim Jong-Un, he said, noting that no date for a summit has been set yet.
Turning to other developments in the region, he said mutual Japan-China visits at the leaders’ level began in 2018 and will continue, providing a point of stability for the region. When the confrontational structure is cleared out of North-East Asia, the maritime corridor running from the Arctic Ocean to the Sea of Japan through the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean will become increasingly important. Expressing hope for stability and peace in those areas through the rule of law and a rules-based order backed by solid institutions, he said those principles are the basis of a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.
Turning to other plans, he said the Government will launch a programme that will bring teachers from Gaza to Japan. In addition, Japan will host in 2019 the Group of 20 Summit, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development and the Rugby World Cup. When Japan and its people fix their gaze on the future, the country increases in vitality, he said, noting that new generations will work as flag bearers for the United Nations spirit. However, citing the lack of progress on Security Council reform, he said the Organization’s significance in the twenty-first century world is already being questioned. As such, he will work with the Secretary-General to push forward reform of the Council and of the United Nations.
NIKOL PASHINYAN, Prime Minister of Armenia, first took a moment to share the story of victory over the authoritarian rule during his country’s “Velvet Revolution”. The people of Armenia succeeded in an unprecedented revolution, without any violence. This was not a coincidence, he noted, and said: “Our intention was to make a revolution of love and solidarity. From the very beginning we declared that we ruled out any violence,” he said. “Our response would be with raised and open hands, smiles and love.”
He noted that when starting out the political process, there were only dozens marching from the second biggest city, Gyomri, to the capital Yerevan. Upon reaching Yerevan and showing determination and devotion to non-violence, the entire nation rose against the ruling regime, winning without a single victim or gunshot, only through peaceful demonstrations.
“Against all odds, I was elected Prime Minister,” he said, adding that it was possible because people were firm in their demand that the Parliament had to follow the people’s will. He said that today, however, that Parliament does not represent our people’s will as it was elected through massive vote buying and oppression.
“Free, fair and transparent elections will become an irreversible reality in Armenia,” he said. He noted the establishment of a new governance system, which is named people’s direct rule, something that will be institutionalized through elections, referendums and engagement of people in the decision-making process.
Despite the radical transformations in internal political life, the foreign policy agenda does not have U-turns, he continued. Armenia stands ready to have constructive dialogue with all partners. He noted the Armenian community in Syria that faces an existential threat from the ongoing crisis, and that his country has contributed humanitarian assistance.
The peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continues to prevail, and the status of the Republic of Artsakh is a priority, he said. He noted that Armenia will continue constructive engagement in a peaceful resolution. Summing up, he noted that the conflict can be settled through mutual compromises by all sides.
M. SAAD-EDDINE EL OTHMANI, Prime Minister of Morocco, emphasized that new and innovative approaches are needed to advance multilateralism. International organizations must be made more efficient and capable to adapt to a changing world. Spotlighting examples of United Nations achievements, he pointed at the first peacekeeping mission and the Organization’s important role in the maintenance of international peace and security. Emphasizing Morocco’s strong commitment to rights, he said the adopting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights opened an avenue for more such instruments.
However, he said, the world needs now more than ever before a collective approach to face challenges such as climate change and the question of migration. Emphasizing the importance of the Paris Agreement, he also noted that Morocco is playing its role in other areas. His country is fully engaged in efforts to combat terrorism and will host in December an international conference aimed at adopting a global compact on migration.
Turning to other concerns, he invited the United Nations to relaunch a political process regarding the creation of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. He also denounced any interference into the internal affairs of Arab States, adding that such actions run counter to international rights.
Regarding the Moroccan Sahara, he said the conflict is a source of instability. As such, he invited Algeria to assume its political and historical responsibilities on the question. “It is clear Algeria created this crisis,” he said, adding that Morocco supports the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy as well as their initiatives to resolve the conflict.
* 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).