Speakers Call for Resolution of Protracted Conflicts, Action to Address Climate Change Threat, as General Assembly Debate Enters Third Day
As the General Assembly entered the third day of its general debate, African leaders underscored their countries’ efforts towards greater democracy and sustainable development, with calls for expanded multilateral cooperation and Security Council reforms.
President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone said the peaceful transfer of power in his West African country — from an incumbent political party to the opposition — showed its commitment to democratic governance. Extensive reforms are under way, including the adoption of renewable energy. However, increased public and private investment is needed. He also called for a comprehensive reform of the Security Council, pointing out that Africa is the only region without permanent representation and underrepresented in the non-permanent category. The United Nations will be undemocratic and discriminatory if Security Council reform is not addressed, he stressed.
Echoing that stance, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, drawing on his nation’s ongoing term as a non-permanent Security Council member, said it is high time to make the 15-member body more democratic and representative. Its current structure is obsolete because the political criteria that prevailed in 1945 no longer govern the world. Africa is the future of humanity and it should not be disenfranchised and left out of major decisions. He also highlighted Equatorial Guinea’s transition to a multiparty system of 18 political parties in a country with less than 1.4 million people. With a fast-emerging economy, Equatorial Guinea needs friendly nations and multilateral organizations to support the Government’s economic reforms.
Ministers from countries in the Horn of Africa pointed to reconciliation across the region, including the end of two decades of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Eritrea and Somalia. “A region which has been one of the most conflict-ridden in Africa, Horn of Africa is indeed becoming hope of Africa,” said Workineh Gebeyehu Negewo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, calling on the Security Council to seriously consider lifting sanctions on Eritrea. Likewise, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Djibouti, said the presidents of his country and Eritrea recently met and agreed to open a new chapter between “these two brother countries”.
During the all-day meeting, speakers also took the floor calling for the resolution of protracted conflicts and demanding that the United Nations Charter, international law and Security Council resolutions be implemented.
President Gjorge Ivanov of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, spotlighting his country’s name dispute with Greece ahead of a 30 September referendum, emphasized that some believed the Prespa Agreement will end the row and open the way to European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership. However, that Agreement violates the right to self-determination as established by Article 1, item 2 and Article 55 of the United Nations Charter. By seeking to impose a new name through erga omnes implementation, “the aim is to limit the use of the name ‘Macedonians’ to the smallest possible space — and that is the space between our two ears — all while keeping our mouths closed”.
President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus, questioning why Security Council decisions remain certificates attesting to violations and why international law and agreements are not implemented, said a viable and lasting settlement on the Mediterranean island — where the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has been present since 1964 — would provide a much‑needed environment of stability and peace in the region. Only a viable solution — in line with European Union membership — will achieve lasting peace, he emphasized, reiterating his commitment to a solution based on relevant United Nations resolutions and calling on Turkey to demonstrate political will to reach a settlement.
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, urged the Assembly to declare null and void the “Nation-State Law of the Jewish People” adopted by Israel in July, saying it will lead to the creation of an apartheid State and nullify the two-State solution. He criticized the President of the United States for, among other things, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocating the United States Embassy to that city. Emphasising that there can be no peace without an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem — “not some place in East Jerusalem” — as its capital, he stated that economic and humanitarian support to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while welcome, cannot substitute for a political solution that will end the Israeli occupation and achieve independence for the State of Palestine on the ground. Palestinians must be viewed as humans, he said, adding: “We are not redundant.”
Reminding the Assembly that Israel was the only country opposed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Benjamin Netanyahu, that country’s Prime Minister, described a raid in Tehran by Israeli operatives on two secret atomic sites, including an archive and an atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons programme. He also expressed appreciation to the President of the United States for his unwavering support for Israel and called the accusations of racism and apartheid “the same old anti-Semitism with a brand-new face”, adding that his country’s Arab citizens have the same individual rights as all other Israeli citizens.
Calls for a more concerted effort to challenge climate changes were also heard as vulnerable countries once again took the podium and urged stronger international cooperation to address the threat. Throughout the meeting, world leaders spotlighted the unique needs of States in special circumstances, from overcoming obstacles on the path towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals to combating climate change consequences that were threatening their very existence.
“Beyond the headlines, the story of climate change is grimly told in daily experiences of floods, droughts, landslides, coastal erosions, lost lives and livelihoods across our region,” Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said, calling for the concept of small State exceptionalism to be placed at the centre of global discourse and responses addressing climate change.
However, he continued, the prospects for an effective international solution are receding. Major emitters that fail to set and honour ambitious mitigation pledges are committing a direct act of hostility against small island developing States, he stressed, underlining the urgent need for decisive political and development action.
Other world leaders echoed that grave message. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand cautioned that the Pacific Islands Forum, held early in September, declared climate change as the single biggest threat to security in the Pacific. While action on climate change remains optional, the impact of inaction is not, she said, adding that any disintegration of multilateralism on the matter is catastrophic.
Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga of Tuvalu said every single year without climate change action will draw his country and other low-lying atoll nations a year closer to their demise, appealing to the Assembly to prevent that from happening. To change that grim trajectory, he reiterated a call for the Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy for climate change and security, commended the Security Council for adding the issue to its agenda and recalled his proposal for the United Nations to establish a human rights protection process for those displaced by climate change consequences.
For small island developing States and least developed countries, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals depends on how the world tackles climate change, he continued. Emphasizing national gains, including programmes promoting healthy lifestyles by introducing weekly “sweat breaks” and encouraging physical activities such as fishing and gardening, he underlined the world’s need for strong leadership that values multilateralism, adding that rhetoric alone is not enough.
Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government and senior ministers of Lithuania, Haiti, Chile, Belgium, Malta, Georgia, Viet Nam, Jamaica, Federated States of Micronesia, Guinea-Bissau, Comoros, Madagascar, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Costa Rica, Nepal, Bangladesh, Spain, Serbia, Uganda, Bhutan, Mauritania, Liechtenstein, Cameroon, United Republic of Tanzania and Togo, as well as the President of the European Council of the European Union.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Iran.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Friday, 28 September, to continue its general debate.
DALIA GRYBAUSKAITÉ, President of Lithuania, noted that this year the world marks the centenary of the end of the First World War, a war that caused the fall of empires and gave small nations in Europe the chance to achieve independence. Following the end of the War, multilateral institutions were created to safeguard political independence and territorial integrity. However, the failure of those institutions plunged the world into the Second World War.
People today think multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, are strong enough to take a stand against aggression and the disregard of international rules, she said. However, reality sometimes tells a different story. The world is increasingly fractured, and institutions fail to shelter those they represent from economic storms.
The Security Council has been unable to play a meaningful role in resolving almost every major conflict of the past decade, she pointed out, attributing the failure to the inability of States to rise above their national interests and the obstructive use of veto powers. Organizations created to abolish weapons of mass destruction are toothless against dictators who develop nuclear arms and use chemical weapons on civilians.
The tides are changing for the global economy, she said, adding that the World Trade Organization is facing paralysis. Rising trade tensions may wipe away progress made towards achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction. Multilateral institutions are not perfect; they can be wasteful and unaccountable. It is up to Member States to address those shortcomings.
More so, States cannot reject globalization, she stressed. Fighting it will only increase poverty. However, globalization has a dark side which must be confronted by challenging exclusion, inequality and falling labour standards. The voices of nationalism and division cannot be allowed to claim victory over dialogue and cooperation. There is no alternative to cooperation, she said, emphasizing that Member States have the power and resources to enable the United Nations to stand up for peace, freedom and equality.
MOKGWEETSI ERIC KEABETSWE MASISI, President of Botswana, said the theme of the general debate — “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies” — should inspire Member States to fulfil the principles of the United Nations Charter and the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Much remains to be done to achieve prosperity for all, as 783 million people are living in extreme poverty, 2.3 billion people lack access to basic sanitation and 4 billion have no social protection. “It is therefore apparent that none of us, whether big or small, can overcome these gigantic development challenges alone,” he said, calling for strengthened multilateralism as well as support for individual States that face their own unique challenges.
While Botswana is classified as an upper middle-income country, it faces the same development challenges as less developed nations, he pointed out, appealing for ongoing support in the areas of human capital, infrastructure and capacity development for the private sector, and technology transfer. Reaffirming Botswana’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda and noting its alignment with Agenda 2063 of the African Union, as well as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Integration Agenda, he said there remains a long way to go to eliminate extreme poverty, given than 35 per cent of Africa’s population — 395 million people — still live in abject poverty.
He outlined Botswana’s efforts to improve the well‑being of its people through its National Vision 2036 policy, which gives priority to economic diversification, sustainable growth, job creation and investment in human capital. He welcomed reforms to the United Nations development system, stating that stronger United Nations country teams and a reinvigorated resident coordinator system will help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Effective coordination between the United Nations and the African Union should avert a duplication of development efforts, thus enabling effective use of limited resources.
Expressing full support for the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court, he noted that 1,019 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in 61 countries since 2015. He also voiced deep concern regarding the protracted conflicts in Afghanistan, Mali, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and urged all parties to protect civilians and humanitarian personnel. Welcoming the Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship by the Presidents of Ethiopia and Eritrea, he added that he looked forward to the adoption in Morocco later this year of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
“As a global community, we need to address the problems of illicit financial flows, money‑laundering and corruption, which are haemorrhaging resources needed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said. Recalling that Goal 16 calls for a substantial reduction of corruption and bribery, alongside the recovery and return of stolen assets, he said the declaration by African leaders of 2018 as the Year for Combatting Corruption marked an opportunity for a renewed commitment to combat corruption. For its part, Botswana is finalizing legislation to strengthen Government integrity, transparency and accountability.
NICOS ANASTASIADES, President of Cyprus, while endorsing the General Assembly theme and its focus on the founding principles of the United Nations, questioned how Members come back year after year, and yet are unable to fulfil the basic aims of the United Nations Charter. He also questioned why Security Council decisions remain certificates attesting to violations and why international law and agreements are not implemented.
He stressed that the cooperation of all must be ensured, specifically victim States suffering from certain issues including, among others, the expansionist ambitions by other States and the promotion of the military industry through formation of conflict in the interest of profit. The enormous equality gap in hunger and nutrition resources around the world is alarming, while child mortality rates are still below acceptable levels.
Further, the root causes of migration remain unexamined and the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change has been hindered by special interests, he stated. The inability to effectively implement United Nations resolutions has led to a lack of credibility and crises such as the forcible displacement of millions, ongoing hunger, human and drug trafficking, and the destruction of cultural heritage.
He called on Members to meet the shared responsibility of the Sustainable Development Goals and reverse ineffective policies in favour of a more targeted, results‑oriented approach. Collective leadership and multilateralism is the only way to eliminate threats to peace and security, he said, again highlighting the importance of effective implementation of United Nations decisions. To that end, he pledged support to the Secretary‑General in reforming the development pillar and called for further action to address the vulnerability of States to climate change. Reform of the peace and security pillar is also of great importance but the former is jeopardized without the latter; the situation in his country is an example of this.
Given the volatile location of Cyprus, his country had reinforced regional ties and established trilateral partnerships with neighbouring countries, he continued. Those partnerships are a practical expression of multilateralism and are not exclusive. A viable and lasting settlement in Cyprus is important not only for the people of Cyprus, Greece and Turkish Cypriots. It would also provide a much‑needed environment of stability and peace in the region. Only a viable solution in line with European Union membership will achieve lasting peace, he emphasized, reiterating his commitment to a solution based on the relevant United Nations resolutions and calling on Turkey to demonstrate the political determination to reach a settlement.
GJORGE IVANOV, President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, recalled that “as a constitutive republic with a right of self-determination to secession, Macedonia was a co-founder of the United Nations”. Although his country became a member of the United Nations in 1993, it was denied the sovereign right to call itself by its name. According to some, the adoption of the Prespa Agreement will put an end to the name dispute with Greece and open a way to membership of his country in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Yet, this Agreement violates the universal principles and standards outlined in its preamble, notably the right to self-determination, he stated.
Greece seeks to impose a new name, asking for an erga omnes implementation, he continued, adding that “the aim is to limit the use of the name ‘Macedonians’ to the smallest possible space — and that is the space between our two ears — all while keeping our mouths closed”. He described the Prespa Agreement as a detrimental compromise, likening it to “a bitter fruit of a tree that has been poisoned a long time ago”. Security Council resolutions 817 (1993) and 845 (1993) — which conditioned his country’s membership on the acceptance of a provisional reference and an obligation to discuss the name issue — violated the right to self‑determination. Both the 1995 Interim Accord and the Prespa Agreement were adopted to justify this violation.
Stressing that Greece is acting as if it were not bound by the rules of international order, he said that, as per the Vienna Convention, the 1995 Interim Accord and the Prespa Agreement that stem from it are null and void because they violate the jus cogens standard of self-determination. He underscored that this standard is established by Article 1, item 2 and Article 55 of the United Nations Charter. “If the United Nations are incapable of giving force to a righteous law, then they will only legitimate unrighteous force,” he stated.
A referendum on the Prespa Agreement will take place in his country on 30 September, he said, thanking the foreign representatives who visited his country recently for their good intentions. However, he called on them to unblock the European Union and NATO membership process without violating the right to self-determination. Reminding his fellow citizens that voting on a referendum is a right, not an obligation, he warned that if the referendum succeeds a semi-sovereign State will be created. If it fails, a possibility to “renew the national consensus that we achieved at the beginning of our independence” will arise. He himself will not vote, he added.
Emphasizing that this irrational dispute has had detrimental consequences for his country and its citizens, he said that his country was denied the right to prosperity due to Greek blockades. He called on all the States that have already recognized his country and established diplomatic relations under its constitutional name not to reverse their decision. “Help us by being the guardians of our right to self-determination, thus safeguarding your right to self-determination,” he said, stressing that the United Nations can only be relevant if it respects its own principles.
TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO, President of Equatorial Guinea, noting that 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of his country’s independence, said the well-being of humanity — a fundamental goal of the United Nations — could not have been achieved without freedom and dignity for the peoples and nations of the world. People who were subjected to the will of others when the Organization was founded in 1945 are now free, he said, calling for an end to colonialism wherever it still exists, and in whatever form it takes.
Despite efforts at the United Nations to promote sustainable development, an ever-widening gap between developed and developing countries makes it hard to maintain international peace and security, he said. National pride must be set aside in the quest to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 of the African Union. Massive migration from the south to the north, internal instability in developing countries, terrorism and rebel movements are reactions to poverty and underdevelopment which result from the absence of solidarity and justice.
As a non‑permanent member of the Security Council, Equatorial Guinea supports preventative diplomacy and the peaceful settlement of conflicts, he continued. He emphasized the principles of international law, respect for the sovereignty of States, non‑interference in other States’ affairs and the rights of countries to exploit their own resources, to name a few. He also applauded peace efforts between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, among others, stating that similar paths should be taken to resolve other conflicts.
Emphasizing that coercive measures have never resolved conflicts, but run counter to the principle of State sovereignty, he said the Security Council must be reformed to make it more democratic and representative. Its current structure is obsolete because the political criteria that prevailed in 1945 no longer govern the world. Africa is the future of humanity and it should not be disenfranchised and left out of major decisions, he said, adding that the Council should shoulder its responsibility for recent conflicts in the Sahel and for uncontrolled migration from Africa to Europe.
Reviewing the situation in his country, he said its economic emergence will be achieved in a relatively short period of time. Politically, the transition to a multiparty system has been characterized by open dialogue, with 18 political parties — in a country of less than 1.4 million people — now recognized. Pointing to Constitutional amendments, including presidential term limits, he called on friendly nations and multilateral organizations to support the Government’s economic reforms. The United Nations, he underscored, should not only be a forum for dialogue, but also a forum for cooperative exchanges to promote the development of humanity.
JOVENEL MOÏSE, President of Haiti, said that the General Assembly faces two underlying questions: how to optimize mechanisms for international peace and security; and how international solidarity can be translated into a more effective system. Combating poverty and promoting human rights are inexorably linked and abject poverty is a denial of human dignity. Poverty alleviation must be at the heart of the United Nations. Furthermore, climate change must be a top priority for international leaders; the Paris Agreement was a major milestone. However, funding is insufficient to respond to challenges and States most affected by violent weather phenomena are those who contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions.
One year after the closing of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, the Government continues to work to strengthen democracy and respect for human rights, he continued. No efforts are spared in creating a stable environment conducive to investment and growth. Haiti is implementing innovative approaches to make progress possible for all Haitians. However, economic growth is apathetic and exerts a heavy burden on development and peacekeeping programmes.
Haiti is also confronting the painful requirement to continue financing Government subsidies for petrol prices, he said, recalling that Haitians voiced their political discontent in recent violent protests, highlighting how fragile Haiti’s progress is. Without appropriate, long‑term assistance structural reforms are unsustainable and such reforms will not occur overnight or under rigid limitations imposed by international partners. He attributed recent public anger to narrow approaches to financial assistance and the inability of Haiti to obtain the forms of aid it requires.
He restated his commitment to spare no effort to guide the country towards sustainable development, including the fight against corruption in all its forms. The Government is endeavouring to immediately improve the livelihood of the most vulnerable members of society, improve the business climate, promote job creation, strengthen the capacity of the judicial system and re-establish its armed forces. Haiti is at a crossroads, he said, appealing for international partners to demonstrate solidarity with Haitians.
Peace, development and security go hand in hand and require long term investment, he stressed, asking how sustainable development can be achieved with inadequate national infrastructure, including for the provision of potable tap water. He also noted that 15,000 classrooms are needed to provide children with access to quality education and 122 health centres are necessary to overcome lack of access to services in communities across the country.
SEBASTIÁN PIÑERA ECHEÑIQUE, President of Chile, said the world is experiencing huge global transformation, creating new dangers as well as amazing new opportunities. Based on western democracy and the social market economy, the world order that emerged following the cold war has given rise to new tensions as States are no longer the only actors on the international stage. The world has been unable to address serious threats to international security, including terrorism, drug trafficking, armed conflicts and transnational organized crime.
Turning to migration, he said large‑scale movements of people and their associated problems transcend the existing international order and required the action of all States. Terrorism, war, hunger and totalitarianism are causing large cross‑border displacement. Chile is experiencing the results from this phenomenon with the number of immigrants in the country swelling from 416 million in 2014 to 966 million in 2017. In that regard, he expressed Chile’s commitment to the adoption of a policy that promotes safe, orderly and regular migration. The country’s policy seeks to strike a balance between the sovereign right of the State to regulate migrants and respect for their fundamental rights.
The Government has embarked on a mission to transform Chile into a developed country, he went on to say, stressing the need for comprehensive, inclusive and sustainable development strategies. Sustainable development calls for gender equality and a zero‑tolerance approach to gender‑based violence. States must be judged by how they treat their most vulnerable citizens. Over the last four decades, humans have done harm to the health of the planet and world leaders will be judged on how they respond to the threat of climate change. Nobody wants humans to be counted among extinct species. In response, his Government is creating protected areas in biodiversity conservatories, committing itself to protection of the oceans, working towards a clean and safe energy matrix, and recognizing the threat posed by plastic pollution.
In October, Chile will mark 30 years since the referendum that opened the way to recovery of democracy, he said. However, there are other countries in the region that have not been able to begin such a transformation. The General Assembly must listen to the people of Venezuela who have been left voiceless by their Government. That country is governed by an authoritarian regime, while in Nicaragua over 400 people have died at the hands of Government forces. The international community must act in the face of those violations, he stressed, adding that Chile will not recognize the new Government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moros.
The competence of the United Nations to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security is now limited, he observed. The Organization has lost the ability to prevent crises and strengthen the institutions of Member States. The United Nations structure, especially of its Security Council, does not respond to current needs and challenges. The Council’s composition does not reflect the modern world, he noted, pointing to the underrepresentation of Africa and Latin America. Only by reviving the values of freedom, peace and respect for human rights can the United Nations fulfil its responsibilities.
JULIUS MAADA BIO, President of Sierra Leone, said his country’s commitment to the United Nations Charter and the building of a more secure world resonates with the theme of this year’s General Assembly debate. Sierra Leone recently demonstrated its commitment to democratic governance with yet another peaceful transfer of power from an incumbent political party to the opposition, he said, thanking the international community for facilitating and monitoring the electoral process. His country stands ready to maximize its potential for development and he called on bilateral partners to help deliver on the expectations of the people of Sierra Leone.
Since the General Assembly’s 2005 pledge to strengthen the United Nations and enhance its authority and efficiency, some gains have been made, he continued. However, the need for reform remains urgent and Member States must work to redress the historical inequalities done to African countries. Present geopolitical realities are compelling for a comprehensive reform of the Security Council, he said, pointing out that Africa is the only region without permanent representation and underrepresented in the non-permanent category. The United Nations will be undemocratic and discriminatory if Security Council reform is not addressed.
He said Sierra Leone’s blueprint for progress focuses on taking the country beyond the phase of peacebuilding and consolidation, and firmly establishing a stable and pluralistic democracy. The Government emphasizes job creation, access to quality education, youth empowerment, empowerment of women, combating corruption and fostering a culture of accountability and transparency. Grounded in the Sustainable Development Goals, Sierra Leone’s policy actions involve strengthening democratic institutions, opening democratic spaces, promoting democratic dialogue and creating a more just and equal society.
Sierra Leone is in the opening stages of adopting renewable energy, he said, pointing to the need for increased public and private investment in the industry. Its target of 60 per cent renewable energy capacity by 2030 is practicable, especially to generate growth in rural areas. Investment in renewable energy will have a multiplier effect in helping the country achieve Goal 7, he said, adding that Sierra Leone has a bold vision for science, technology and innovation.
He highlighted how Sierra Leone is undertaking extensive reform to create a peaceful, just and inclusive environment. The Government has launched a free education programme and is retooling its governance and financial and health‑care institutions. On health care, he called on international partners to help invest in critical institutional, technical and human resources and to help improve the country’s preventative health infrastructure. Welcoming the United Nations renewed commitment to conflict prevention and acknowledging the relevance of the global framework to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit arms trade, he also called on the international community to help consolidate Sierra Leone’s development efforts.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the State of Palestine, said he has returned to the General Assembly to appeal for the freedom, independence and justice for his oppressed people who have been suffering under the yoke of Israeli occupation for more than 51 years. He recalled this year’s decision by the Palestinian National Council to suspend Palestinian recognition of Israel until Israel recognizes the State of Palestine. That Council also decided to approach the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s treaty violations and acts of aggression by Israeli occupying forces. The “Nation-State Law of the Jewish People” adopted by Israel in July is a racist law that will lead to the creation of an apartheid State and nullify the two-State solution, he said, calling on the international community and the General Assembly to declare it null and void, just as they condemned apartheid in South Africa.
He expressed shock at decisions taken by the President of the United States to close the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, D.C., recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, transfer the United States Embassy to that city, and end support to the Palestinian National Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). He called on the United States President to rescind those decisions, which went against international law and United Nations resolutions, and salvage the prospects for peace. He recalled his proposal to the Security Council on 20 February for an international peace conference based on relevant United Nations resolutions and internationally-endorsed terms of reference. Palestinians have never rejected negotiations and they continue to extend their hands for peace, he said.
There can be no peace without an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem — “not some place in East Jerusalem” — as its capital, he continued. Noting that the State of Palestine will chair the Group of 77 developing countries and China in 2019, he called on all countries that have not yet done so — including the United Kingdom and the United States — to recognize the State of Palestine expeditiously. Emphasizing that Israel, the occupying Power, has not implemented any relevant General Assembly or Security Council resolution, including resolution 2334 (2016), and that illegal settlement activity continues, he said the Palestinian people and their State are in more urgent need of international protection that at any time before.
While economic and humanitarian support to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is welcome, it cannot substitute for a political solution that will end the Israeli occupation and achieve independence for the State of Palestine on the ground, he pointed out. Nor can it be an alternative to lifting the Israeli blockade or ending the division between the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians must be viewed as humans, he said, adding: “We are not redundant.”
Israel and the United States must abide by their agreements with the Palestinians, who will otherwise be unable to uphold their commitments, he said. Underscoring the role of the Quartet for Middle East peace, he said the United States alone cannot act as a mediator because it has too much bias towards Israel. On Palestinian reconciliation, he said the State of Palestine cannot bear responsibility for the failure of Hamas to fulfil its obligations, and he urged the Assembly to ensure support for UNRWA. Despite the injustice they face, the Palestinians will never resort to violence and terrorism. He called on the Palestinian people to remain steadfast and to continue to make sacrifices until independence and self-determination are achieved, with East Jerusalem as their capital.
DONALD TUSK, President of European Council of the European Union, said his bloc was fighting to protect the international world‑based order which is currently under great strain. The countries of the European continent care about respect and solidarity between nations, as well as unity and collective action in addressing the pressing issues before the United Nations. The European Union supports the plans to reform the United Nations, reforms that are long overdue, he observed. The Union has stepped up efforts to maintain peace and security in Europe and has taken action against the increased use of disinformation in elections. The anonymity of cyberspace allows nefarious actions to be disguised and the United Nations should help expose this phenomenon.
Increased relations between the European Union and the African Union has allowed the European Union to help people to safely leave Libya, adding that the two organizations will continue that productive cooperation. Regarding the migration crisis, only collective action will solve the situation. The European Union will continue to work with partners on search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean. The bloc is also involved in resettlement efforts including Syrian refugees from Turkey, he said, calling for the full implementation of the Idlib agreement and for all to respect international law.
Sustainable development and continent‑to‑continent activity will bring societies closer together, he said, pointing out that climate change will be one of the most important issues the world faces. He appealed to all leaders to protect the waters around the Antarctic. As well, by establishing maritime sanctuaries in the Southern Ocean, many species of wildlife will be saved.
Regarding nonproliferation, he observed that the situation has improved, although much depends on the attitude of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Clearly, diplomacy is the productive way forward. A similar situation exists in Iran, where the European Union is committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as long as Iran remains committed to it. Recalling the late former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s message, he urged Members not to give up.
CHARLES MICHEL, Prime Minister of Belgium, recalled that unilateral actions and a lack of dialogue led to the horror of two world wars. The universal values of freedom, rule of law and democracy remain the best safeguards for fundamental human rights and freedom. Multilateralism is not an empty concept but rather the conviction that tireless dialogue is key, he said, further describing it as the choice of the battle of ideas and arguments over the battle of arms. Multilateralism requires patience, but it is the only way to eradicate poverty, push out terrorists and preserve resources.
He expressed regret that agreements born of intense and difficult negotiations like the Paris Agreement and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action can be unilaterally tossed aside. “Trust and cooperation between sovereign nations implies respect for promises and commitments that were made,” he said, underlining that prior to the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran was on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons. While noting that the Plan is not comprehensive as it does not cover ballistic missiles, he said those who criticize it should seek to open a new chapter of multilateral cooperation to improve it. Belgium has been elected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the upcoming two‑year period, he noted, pledging to expand dialogue, fuel transparent and respectful debates, and work in favour of prosperity, security and respect for the planet.
He called for a regular assessment of each peacekeeping mission’s contribution to long‑term political stability, adding that “the presence of blue helmets on the ground cannot become a screen for political resignation, neither in conflict zones nor on the regional or international level”. For centuries, trade has been promoting peace between peoples. Freedom of trade must be based on fair and healthy competition with ambitious social and environmental standards. He welcomed the results of the fair trade agreement that was recently concluded between the European Union and Canada. Underlining that before 2050, the African continent will have 2.5 billion inhabitants, he called for an ambitious free‑trade agreement and a win‑win comprehensive partnership between Europe and Africa.
Underscoring that climate change knows no borders and that natural resources are limited, he criticized the obstinacy of those who deny it, comparing them to those who used to say the earth is flat. Natural disasters are increasingly large in scale and deadly, and climate change will cause and aggravate conflicts, he warned, citing the situation in West Africa where access to potable water has increased tensions. “In the face of this existential threat, for our children, we must assume shared responsibility,” he said, calling for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
While the importance of the migration issue has taken an unprecedented scale, he stressed the need to “remove migration out of the hands of human traffickers, who are modern day slave traders”. Orderly and legal mechanisms for international migration must be improved. The Global Compact is a step in the right direction. Noting that extremists of all sides are taking advantage of migration issues for political or financial gains, he stressed that peace is the international community’s most important asset; but it requires vigilance. The challenges the world faces today have no boundaries and no country alone can overcome them, he said, reaffirming his faith in multilateralism.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister of Israel, recalled that, three years ago, only his country, out of nearly 200 countries in the General Assembly Hall, opposed the nuclear deal with Iran. That deal was based on a fundamental lie that Iran was not seeking to develop nuclear weapons. However, in February, Israel conducted a raid on Iran’s secret atomic archive and obtained 100,000 documents and videos that had been stashed in vaults in a building in the heart of Tehran. In May, he presented a short summary of what it had obtained to the international media, including hard evidence of Iran’s plan to obtain nuclear weapons.
That information was also shared with members of the Security Council's five permanent members and Germany, also known as the P5+1, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he said. Yet, IAEA has still not taken any action and has not posed a single question to Iran, nor has it demanded to inspect a single new site discovered in the secret archive. He then informed the Assembly that Iran also has a second secret facility in Tehran — an atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons programme. Displaying a photo of the site, he described it as an innocent‑looking compound on Maher Alley, near a rug‑cleaning operation.
When South Africa and Libya gave up their nuclear programmes, they destroyed the archives, material and equipment, he said. Iran did not destroy such materials because it has not abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons. There was a belief that Iran’s regime would become more moderate, more peaceful, and use the billions of dollars in sanction relief to improve the lives of its people. Instead, it used the money to fuel its vast war machine. Iran has attacked Kurds in Iraq, Sunnis in Syria, financed Hamas in Gaza and fired missiles into Saudi Arabia. Last month, two Iranian agents were arrested for plotting terror attacks in the United States and several weeks ago agents were arrested for plotting terror attacks in the heart of Europe.
He went on to say that just as the nuclear‑deal supporters were wrong about what would happen when sanctions were removed, they were wrong about what would happen when sanctions were restored. They had argued that United States sanctions alone would have little impact on Iran. However, since President [Donald J.] Trump has forced businesses to choose between the United States and Iran, Iran’s unemployment and inflation rates have soared. Supporters were also wrong when they argued that restoring sanctions would rally the Iranian people around the regime. Although the people are definitely rallying, it is against the regime, with chants of “death to the dictator”, he said.
He expressed Israel’s appreciation to President Trump and Ambassador Nikki Haley for their unwavering support for Israel at the United Nations, including Israel’s right to defend itself. The United States has also backed out of a history‑denying United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and a morally bankrupt Human Rights Council. It stopped funding an unreformed United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) that instead of solving the Palestinian refugee problem, perpetuates it. President Trump stood up to what has long been a speciality at the United Nations: slandering Israel. Recalling the United Nations resolution comparing Zionism to racism had been repealed long ago, he said that opinion still lingers at the Organization. Israel is accused of racism, yet its Arab citizens have the same individual rights as all other Israeli citizens. Israel is also accused of apartheid. “This is the same old anti-Semitism with a brand-new face,” he underscored.
JOSEPH MUSCAT, Prime Minister of Malta, said that to find solutions the international community must be committed to communicating and understanding one another. The trend of nations drifting towards reactions confined to their own borders is of concern. Some are looking at solving global issues with local solutions, which can give the illusion of working for a limited time or can lead to almost immediate implosion. While the sovereignty of all nations must be respected, those who are closing themselves off to debate falsely believe they will escape certain issues, he cautioned.
There are divisions not just among global leaders and nations, but within countries’ own societies, neighbourhoods and even families, he said. Local solutions breed global problems that can manifest themselves with devastating results, from the use of plastic products that are polluting the seas to mass migration and the effect of displacement on both migrants and host nations. Malta has been hit particularly hard by those issues and has been grappling for years with all the complexities that such challenges pose.
However, with a unified approach, criminal gangs profiting from smuggling human beings can be stopped, he emphasized. A global strategy can deliver incisive blows to migrant smugglers; their online recruitment efforts and their payment methods can be disrupted. Most importantly, they can be stopped from profiting from a practice that often results in the death of innocent people. Malta’s humanitarian response continues to fully adhere to its international commitments.
He went on to say that, in recent weeks, because of the actions of a few who did not abide by the relevant conventions, Malta had to bring together like‑minded nations with humanitarian consciences to offer a place of safety to stranded migrants. Although this was just a temporary respite from a much bigger problem, actions like these can provide the foundations for a longer‑term solution if all European Union member States come together. The Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration is a welcome move in the right direction, but it is a milestone, not the end of the road.
Although fewer people live in extreme poverty, it has not been eradicated, he noted. Solutions have been found for many life‑threatening diseases, yet cures are still needed for others. Injustice remains, and climate change could be the biggest threat to life in history. By harnessing new technologies, which pose endless possibilities, the world can move forward. However, while these are exciting technological times, there are also challenges in this fast transition to the digital economy. Such challenges have to do with the nature of concepts that were previously thought to be unchanging, such as the nature of work. Whether for technology or immigration, solutions do not come through closed doors. The digital economy needs to be seen as an opportunity, he said.
MAMUKA BAKHTADZE, Prime Minister of Georgia, said he was honoured to address the Assembly in his native language on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the painful occupation of Georgia’s historical regions. Ten years ago, the Russian Federation launched another large-scale military aggression which resulted in the full occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. The situation in those regions is dire and alarming, and constitutes a humanitarian disaster as militarization and depopulation efforts intensify. He said Moscow’s motivation is a military intervention with the aim to establish military bases on Georgian territory.
Following the many human rights violations perpetrated in those regions, the Otkhozoria‑Tatunashvili list was created to monitor rights violators and bring them to justice, he continued. Blatant disregard for the rule of law in occupied territories has created serious challenges for Georgia and the region as a whole, he said, calling on the international community to firmly support the principle of sovereign equality. He added that the Russian Federation is not fulfilling its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement.
Georgia is proposing a new peace initiative designed to provide people in occupied territories with access to health care and education services and to create commercial opportunities, he said. The Government is committed to protecting and guaranteeing the rights of every Georgian. He urged the Russian Federation not to undermine the initiative. The pursuit of national interests must be based on mutual respect, he stressed, adding that Georgia is an organic part of Europe and continues on its path to cooperate with the European Union.
He went on to say that Georgia’s recent progress in democratic consolidation, respect for human rights and strengthening the rule of law is the result of fundamental reform processes. Development strategies in the country focus on strengthening human capital, including an ambitious education reform. The protection of fundamental human rights and dignity is a national priority and Georgia has emerged as the region’s leading reformer. Protections of fundamental rights are enhanced by freedom of the media and the active participation of civil society actors in defining the process of democracy building.
Turning to development matters, he said Georgia’s sustainable development policy focuses on the establishment of green and digital economies. That reform process is transforming Georgia into an economic, tourism, logistics and education hub. A new initiative to transform the Black Sea region into a space for peace and development has also been proposed, he said. In addition, relations with NATO are dynamic and comprehensive as the country aspires to join that organization. He affirmed that Georgia stands with the international community in the fight against transnational terrorism. However, the global security system is eroding, he said, adding that United Nations reform remains relevant.
NGUYEN XUAN PHUC, Prime Minister of Viet Nam, thanked the General Assembly for the minute of silence in memory of Tran Dai Quang, former President of Viet Nam, who recently passed away. Noting significant achievements in recent years thanks to global cooperation and development, such as the adoption of the Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, United Nations reforms, Millennium Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said the United Nations has become a true symbol of global solidarity. Viet Nam staunchly supports its central role in maintaining global peace and security, protecting and promoting human rights, and fostering development cooperation.
Once a poor, underdeveloped country, Viet Nam has experienced average annual GDP growth of over 6 per cent in the last 20 years, transforming it into one of the world’s largest food exporters and dramatically improving living standards for nearly 100 million citizens. As a party to 16 free trade agreements, Viet Nam enjoys free trade relations with almost 60 major countries and partners worldwide. It hosted the 2018 World Economic Forum on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and it is working towards the 2025 Vision for the ASEAN community. Viet Nam is also striving to promote justice and sustainable development, foster equality and support for disadvantaged groups, protect the environment, and uphold human rights for all, he said, citing its focus on preserving cultural heritage and national identity. It is one of the few countries that has achieved several millennium targets ahead of schedule.
International disputes should be settled by peaceful means in line with international law and the United Nations Charter, he said, stressing that the dispute concerning the South China Sea should be addressed on the basis of the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea as well as on the principle of safeguarding maritime security, navigation and overflight rights and freedoms. He also noted the value of international cooperation and assistance in Viet Nam’s progress towards sustainable development, international integration and poverty reduction.
While scientific and technological breakthroughs as well as globalization, are creating opportunities for unprecedented economic growth, the world is also facing new and immense obstacles, he said. Power politics, the use or threat of force and the rise of unilateral measures still threaten global peace and stability, while injustice, inequality, climate change, pollution and poverty persist. “No single nation can singlehandedly address the enormous global challenges,” he said, stressing that common efforts and collaboration of all nations are needed. The international community should uphold “dual responsibility” in which each nation and individual should take additional responsibility for addressing global issues. He also called for the lifting of the unilateral embargo on Cuba so that it may equitably and fairly participate in economic and trading relations.
Humankind’s progress is measured not only by technological advances, but by peace and prosperity; even the smallest opportunity for peace must be cherished and nurtured. “The voice of small nations and the aspiration of the disadvantaged need to be respected, heard and shared,” he said. He called for stronger high‑level United Nations‑ASEAN cooperation. With a foreign policy based on cooperation, development and international integration, Viet Nam hopes to contribute more to the creation of multilateral mechanisms, he said, noting that it had dispatched a level‑2 field hospital to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Lastly, he noted his country’s candidacy for non-permanent Security Council membership in 2020-2021, thanking the Asia-Pacific Group for its endorsement and calling for the support of all Member States.
ANDREW HOLNESS, Prime Minister of Jamaica, said it is imperative to make the United Nations relevant to all people. Since the global economic crisis 10 years ago, global growth has improved and unemployment has declined. But small developing economies have enjoyed a more uneven growth. Jamaica’s own quest for inclusive and economic growth has encountered challenges, including those linked to climate change and intense weather events. Regardless of the difficulties, his country is pursuing policies that will secure economic growth such as structural reform of its economy, reduction of its debt profile, transformation of the energy sector and increased social support for the vulnerable population. Ultimately, economic independence will secure Jamaica’s resilience.
Jamaica continues to strengthen traditional partnerships and build new ones, he noted, including the invitation to represent the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at outreach summits of the Group of Seven (G7) and BRICS (Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa). Influential country alliances have the opportunity to work alongside international development partners to address problems that face weaker economies. Concerted action will be required to find effective solutions within a fair, multilateral system.
Jamaica and its CARICOM partners do not have the luxury of engaging in a philosophical debate on climate change, he went on to say. For five months every year, the Caribbean region lives in fear of super storms. The hurricane devastation wreaked on Dominica could be compared to a nuclear event. The global cost of climate-related disasters was $320 billion last year. Against that background, his country looks forward to the climate change summit to be convened by the Secretary-General in 2019, he said.
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, various sources of additional funding must be tapped, he said, highlighting the importance of mobilizing private sector funding. Many small island developing States are deemed to have graduated to middle‑income status based on their gross domestic product (GDP). Yet many remain highly indebted and vulnerable. He commended the work of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and called for international financial institutions to address the problem known as the “middle‑income countries”. His Government will continue to work with partners such as Canada to provide a platform where countries can engage directly with actors in the private sector.
Jamaica is especially committed to combating the illicit traffic and trade of small arms and light weapons and has made significant national institutional changes and policy enhancements in that effort, he continued. Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals must be people‑centred and embargoes and financial barriers must not become tools to prevent people from their right to development. Societies are not sustainable without healthy citizens, he said, pointing out that Jamaica is severely impacted by non‑communicable diseases but is implementing measures to reverse that trend.
JACINDA ARDERN, Prime Minster of New Zealand, said that New Zealanders’ empathy and strong sense of justice is matched by their pragmatism. Regardless of its geographic isolation, New Zealand sees itself as a member of the international community, a community whose heart is in the United Nations. She urged that the Organization’s founding principles not be consigned to the history books, noting that the need for multilateralism and collective action has never been greater. States are united by the positive and negative effects of globalization, and amid unprecedented economic growth there still exists a growing sense of insecurity.
It is not surprising to witness a global trend of young people showing dissatisfaction with political systems, she noted. The world now has a generation that will grow up more connected than ever and unsure if jobs they are training for will exist in 20 years. This is a borderless generation, one that is calling for responses to challenges such as climate change. Two weeks ago, at the Pacific Islands Forum, climate change was declared the single biggest threat to security in the Pacific. While action on climate change remains optional, the impact of inaction is not. Any disintegration of multilateralism on the matter is catastrophic.
She also stressed that while international institutions are not perfect, they can be fixed, calling on States to rebuild and recommit to multilateralism. There is a need to rediscover the shared belief in the value of connectedness. International trade, for instance, is helping millions out of poverty while at the same time some see their standard of living sliding. The answer to the problem is not protectionism, she assured, urging States to ensure that the benefits of trade be distributed fairly across societies. It is incumbent on States to build productive, sustainable and inclusive economies.
New Zealand has set itself the ambitious goal of becoming the best place in the world to be a child, she said, adding that focus on nurturing the next generation must be matched with concern over the environment it is inheriting. The Maori community in New Zealand encapsulates this concern through the belief that people are entrusted with the environment and thus have a duty to protect it. The race for economic growth and wealth will make all people poorer if it comes at the cost of the environment. Meeting these challenges calls for United Nations reform, she said, expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts aimed at making the Organization more responsive and effective. It is up to Member States to drive this change.
In an increasingly uncertain world, it is more important than ever to remember the core values of the United Nations, she emphasized, voicing her surprise at the need to have to recommit to gender equality. She said she will never celebrate the gains made by women in New Zealand while internationally other women and girls experience a lack of the most basic of opportunities and dignity; “me too” must become “we too”, she stressed. States face a long list of demands, and in the face of isolation, protectionism and racism they must look outward in the spirit of kindness and collectivism. New Zealand remains committed to do its part to build and sustain international peace and security and to defend an open, inclusive and rules‑based international order based on universal values.
RALPH E. GONSALVES, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said the adverse effects of the 2008 global economic and financial crisis have been far-reaching, especially for the countries least responsible for it. The financial architecture has been reassembled with little more than cosmetic changes; economic difficulties have caused many nations to look inward; craven demagogues have exploited economic hardship; and illiberal intolerance has risen in all corners of the world. “Solidarity has been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency,” he said, underlining the need for integration, cooperation and consensus building. While acknowledging this context demands that the United Nations systemic flaws be urgently addressed, he stressed that the Organization remains the only institution with the authority and capacity to enable global cooperation.
The principles of non-intervention and non-interference are of particular importance to small island developing States, given that they lack military might and wealth and are constrained within narrow borders, he continued. Every violation of the principle of non-intervention is an indirect assault on their survival. Consequently, his country stands firmly against interventionist assaults on the sovereignty of Cuba and Venezuela. He called for a resumption of respectful dialogue between the United States and Cuba. Furthermore, unwarranted and illegal intervention in Venezuela is an impediment to the people’s quest for peace, democracy and liberty. “The peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean have repeatedly reaffirmed that our region is a zone of peace. Our peoples are not the pawns and playthings of any nation,” he stated.
“Beyond the headlines, the story of climate change is grimly told in daily experiences of floods, droughts, landslides, coastal erosions, lost lives and livelihoods across our region,” he said, describing climate change as a multifaceted existential problem. The prospects for an effective international solution are receding. He called for the concept of small State exceptionalism to be placed at the centre of global discourse and responses addressing climate change. Major emitters that fail to set and honour ambitious mitigation pledges are committing a direct act of hostility against small island developing States. Decisive political and development action is urgently needed. Global climate accords have placed promised support at the centre of an impenetrable web of rules and processes that frustrate those most desperately in need of cooperation.
The international commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals suffers from the lack of tangible global efforts, he underscored. However, his country has embedded them in its national development plans and created a Zero Hunger Trust Fund and a Disaster Contingency Fund. As it continues to seek new avenues for people-centred development and economic growth, the spectre of trade wars looms, and its banking and financial industries face increasing procedural impediments. Manipulating States’ access to global banking and finance mechanisms violates the internationally recognized right to development, he emphasized, urging the United States to confront this grave issue.
Highlighting his country’s active participation in the work of the United Nations, he said the need for principled pragmatism on the Security Council requires that its membership be reformed to better reflect modern realities and challenges. “The relevance of this institution is rooted in its responsiveness to the needs and challenges of the peoples we collectively represent,” he stated. He pointed out that the United Nations remains blind to the 23 million residents of Taiwan even though there is no principled basis to deny it the right to participate in the work of the specialized agencies of the Organization. He also called for practical resolutions to the pain and suffering of the Palestinians and the people of Yemen.
PETER M. CHRISTIAN, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, said that the last two speakers had said it all, especially New Zealand, which spoke about the fate of Pacific island countries with regards to climate change. He noted that when the cold war hit, the era was deeply rooted in clandestine engagement, reminding everyone of Winston Churchill’s words that “the truth is so precious that it must be protected by lies.” This resonated today, with the fight between the bigger, richer countries and the smaller, marginalized economies becoming again the spoils of a new economic war fostering new economic colonies. In all wars, innocent lives are filed away as collateral damage.
He continued, saying that the meeting was opened with the world facing serious challenges, and “yet we dare to ask ourselves, is Pluto a planet? How is that relevant to what we face today? Perhaps Pluto can wait.” He called for improving the United Nations as a forum that seeks curative measures, to stop this economic war, to close the gap, and to avoid deliberate procrastination on these issues. A more progressive attitude must be adopted, he said, noting that the existential threat of climate change is more real with every hurricane, wildfire, heat wave and centimetre of sea rise. Islands in the Federated States of Micronesia, and neighbouring Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, will be the first to literally disappear.
Noting that in 2009 the Federated States of Micronesia proposed a fast‑action strategy using the Montreal Protocol to reduce climate emissions to avoid a 0.5°C temperature rise by the end of the century, he said that amount is more than half of the present level of temperature warming that has already produced super storms like Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines and Hurricane Florence in the United States. To achieve this goal, he urged countries that have yet to do so to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. If the current trajectory continues, many more islands will be lost and people will be displaced, he said, but the world can avoid the climate impact with fast action. He noted the power of the Paris Agreement and said everyone must be on board. “I am disappointed that some countries are considering withdrawing from the Agreement and I call on them to reconsider,” he said.
The Federated States of Micronesia has abundant marine resources and among its key concerns is a healthy, productive, resilient ocean which is the bedrock of the country’s livelihood, he said, reaffirming a commitment to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders declaration to safeguard the ocean. While welcoming the recent decision by the International Law Commission to place the topic “Sea‑Level Rise in Relation to International Law” on its long‑term work programme, he strongly recommended it be placed on its active programme because of the direct implications of sea‑level rise for maritime baselines and boundaries.
Moving on to the issue of global peace, he said he is encouraged by the peace of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Pacific region has a stake in peace on the Korean Peninsula, which would make the region more secure and stable. The pain of all people in armed conflict cannot be ignored. “As world leaders, we have fallen short of our responsibilities,” he said. The United Nations needs to be relevant, he said. “We find it deeply troubling that the threat posed by climate change to our existence has not received the Security Council’s serious attention,” he said, adding that Pacific island States have made a proposal to the Council that is a step in the right direction. The Council needs to be more representative and responsive to today’s challenges. The role of the United Nations development system to enhance the capacity of small island developing States must not be overlooked, he said, calling on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to scale up its presence in the North Pacific.
JOSÉ MÁRIO VAZ, President of Guinea‑Bissau, expressed concern that many conflicts persist around the world and many people continue to suffer the destruction of war. Millions die or are forced to abandon their homes in search of asylum, he said, emphasizing that “we cannot remain indifferent to so much suffering and despair”. Spotlighting the plight of those seeking asylum in Europe as well as those in Palestine, Yemen and Syria — which continues to be a major source of concern for the international community — he said that on the African continent, internal tensions caused by terrorist groups especially in the Sahel region spread fear among populations and prevent Governments from focusing on development issues.
Noting that climate change is increasingly causing more frequent droughts and floods in many parts of the globe, he said many island countries face the risk of disappearance due to rising sea levels. “These challenges require from all of us efforts, new attitudes and more responsible behaviours,” he stressed, calling on nations to rigorously meet their commitments undertaken as part of the Paris Agreement. Spotlighting the obligations and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter — especially those of the peaceful resolution of disputes, the non‑interference in the internal affairs of other countries and multilateralism as the cornerstone of building international peace and security — he also went on to underline the interdependence of countries in today’s world.
“One country’s national policies may gravely affect all other countries,” he continued, adding: “This demands shared responsibility.” In that regard, he underlined the importance of reforming the Security Council in order to ensure better representation of the African continent, thereby enhancing the legitimacy of that principal organ of the United Nations. Recalling that Guinea‑Bissau, alongside leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), arrived in 2017 at an agreement to overcome its political and constitutional impasse, he outlined some of the ECOWAS recommendations including: The appointment of a consensus Prime Minister; the formation of a Government of inclusion; the reopening of the National People’s Assembly; and the election of members of a National Electoral Commission.
“Recent political, social and economic events bear witness that Bissau‑Guinean people and armed forces […] said no to instability and embarked on a path of peace and development,” he said. Noting that the country is on track to hold elections on 18 November and citing other positive developments, he appealed for the lifting of sanctions imposed on some of Guinea‑Bissau’s armed forces officials. “We must join forces in order to better manage globalization, eradicate poverty and hunger, combat major endemic diseases, as well as guarantee education and potable water for all” in order to implement the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, he said.
AZALI ASSOUMANI, President of the Comoros, said that tackling global problems depended on reforms aimed at making the United Nations more representative, equitable, efficient and able to fulfil its mission. That included allocating at least two permanent Security Council seats to African States, complete with veto power. Equally important are concerted international and national efforts to fight the spread of disease. Attention is also urgently needed to address crises in Yemen, Syria and Palestine. On the latter, he pledged his country’s support for the Palestinian people, calling on the General Assembly to shoulder its responsibilities to help those facing grave danger. He also called on the Assembly to address the urgent needs of the Rohingya community. On the question of Western Sahara, he commended Morocco’s efforts to find a political solution. More broadly, he reiterated a call to eliminate nuclear weapons and the very real threats they pose.
Addressing other global challenges, he said terrorism touched most countries and efforts must address anti‑Islam rhetoric and pursue consensual language to define its different aspects. Underlining the need to establish a process of cooperation and action to reduce terrorist threats, he expressed support for the joint forces currently active in the Sahel region, highlighting the importance of swift, effective responses. In a similar vein, he said the Comoros has been participating in negotiations ahead of the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Among other things, this agreement reiterates commitments to address the root causes of migration through a lens of international cooperation and to protecting and promoting migrants’ human rights.
Sharp attention is also needed to combat climate change consequences, he said, emphasizing the particular needs of small island developing States. Climate risks are destroying ecosystems and biodiversity, increasing both poverty levels and the spread of disease while triggering climate‑related migration. All stakeholders must shoulder their responsibilities, with cooperative efforts involving States, the private sector and individuals, to stop the tragic evolution of global warming. Implementing the Paris Agreement on sustainable development is vital, he said, pointing at recent catastrophes that have ravaged every continent as a grim reminder that climate change is real.
Turning to national concerns, he said the Comoros has experienced major socio‑economic progress, including a new initiative, Assises Nationales, supported by civil society. The national forum highlighted the need to redefine and reshape a new institutional framework. Following a referendum held in July, a new Constitution and elections have been announced. Calling for support from international and regional partners, he expressed hope that such efforts would result in further progress.
On the issue of the expulsion of Comoros citizens from Mayotte, he raised grave concerns about conditions that have led to children being abandoned. Such actions are becoming a threat to the Comoros and the region. The root of a misunderstanding between France and the Comoros must be addressed, he said, offering to engage in dialogue with France. He expressed determination to progress to work towards a fair resolution to the question of Mayotte. Together with France, he hoped to break the deadlock over the issue and find a lasting solution.
RIVO RAKOTOVAO, President ad interim of Madagascar, underscored the great changes in the world: multi-polarity and economic globalization with dizzying levels of computerization as well as abundant diversity. “Much progress has been made,” he said, but added that there are a lack of confidence and insecurity, exacerbated by inequality and planetary challenges such as climate change, poverty and disease. Everyone was a witness to the humanitarian crises in the world, as the world is changing and evolving. The United Nations must adapt to ensure coherence in responses and approaches. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires combating inequality and promoting social inequality. In addition, it is essential to protect the environment, which must be a priority if the international community wants to eliminate extreme poverty and ensure the viability of the planet.
He noted the role of women and girls, and the appalling conditions they are facing all over the world, including as victims of gender‑based violence. “Women and girls are central to the future of humanity,” he said, adding that to improve the fate of humanity, everyone must care about the fate of women. Continuing, he called for action to improve health care around the world too, particularly in Africa. He pointed to problems in Madagascar especially in obtaining specific investment commitments and support from partners. He noted that a universal health care system has been implemented and the country is now free of polio.
The country’s 2030 Agenda ensures inclusive sustainable development, but adequate financial resources are vital to galvanize the support it needs, he said. Underscoring that a world of peace and prosperity must have consensual actions that are decided by everyone, he noted that the Malagasy people have been interested in partnerships to protect the country’s democratic achievements, which are essential to its stability. The country is at a crossroads. He quoted Kofi Annan, who said: “No nation is born democratic,” and added that Madagascar has the determination to build democracy. He noted accomplishments of the last four years, including macroeconomic balance, as well as increased confidence between national and international stakeholders.
He pointed to more positive steps, such as the use of clean energy – and the building of hydro and solar plants, which will reduce electricity costs by 2020 despite oil price increases. Exports are doing well and in the social sector, health care has improved. He noted other sectors’ improvements: tourism, infrastructure, airports, and structural reform to counter corruption — all of which would advance stability and growth. Lastly, he reiterated the call to promote a better future to which all nations aspire, and paid tribute to former Secretary‑General Kofi Annan, defender of multilateralism, who sought to build a stronger Organization on behalf of humanity.
MUHAMMAD JUSUF KALLA, Vice-President of Indonesia, said that as the world grapples with conflicts, extreme poverty, inequality, zero‑sum thinking and narrow nationalism and democracy and human rights violations, people look for leadership from superhero‑like Powers. “We do not need to call on the strength of the Avengers or the Justice League,” he said, arguing that the global leaders in the General Assembly have the strength of individual will, courage, compassion, selflessness and humility. There is no effective leadership without genuine responsibility. Indonesia will become a non‑permanent Security Council member in 2019 and a true partner for peace, he said, noting that peace is not merely the absence of war, it is the continuous effort to maintain stability and prevent conflict.
Turning to the Asia‑Pacific region, he said that as geopolitical and geostrategic landscapes are changing fast, Indonesia and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) States see the larger region as a single geostrategic theatre cooperating and not competing with each other. The commitment to peace and stability in the Middle East will be questioned if the Palestinian‑Israeli conflict is not solved, he said, adding that Indonesia supports the two‑State solution and a truly independent Palestinian State. Turning to peacekeeping, he noted Indonesia’s contribution of more than 3,500 personnel to nine United Nations missions and its readiness to deploy 4,000 more, including more women, by 2019. He endorsed the Action for Peacekeeping initiative to improve peacekeeping capacity. The 2030 Agenda, Paris Agreement and the first ever global instrument on migration to be adopted in Marrakesh in December demonstrate collective compassion, selflessness and global leadership at its finest. Living up to these commitments is “very simple on paper, yet not so straightforward in practice”, he said, warning that time is running out.
Through South-South and triangular cooperation, Indonesia has trained more than 6,000 participants in over 500 capacity‑building programmes around the world, he said, citing plans to launch the Indonesia Aid for Development programme to reinforce the country’s international assistance. The first Indonesia‑Africa Forum is a testament to his country’s strong commitment to “win‑win cooperation” with the African continent. He also cited the Indonesia‑Africa Infrastructure Dialogue aimed at accelerating development in Africa. As the largest archipelagic country in the world, Indonesia is vulnerable to the impact of climate change, an issue to be addressed at the Archipelagic and Islands States Conference and Our Ocean Conference to take place next month.
Turning to the fight against violent extremism and radicalism, he said creating just, inclusive, democratic, equitable and tolerant societies is crucial. Injustice, exclusivity, extreme poverty, illiteracy and massive youth unemployment must be uprooted, and hard and soft power approaches must be improved. Pointing to the horrific terrorist attack in Surabaya, Indonesia, he said the evolution of violence by terrorists knows no boundaries, underscoring that using children as weapons can never be right. Indonesia strongly deplores the attempts of one country to become part of the separatist movements, he said, adding that it will not remain silent while such hostile acts continue. Indonesia will not let any country undermine its territorial integrity.
DANIEL KABLAN DUNCAN, Vice-President of Côte d’Ivoire, said reforming and modernizing the United Nations is ever more important at a time when the international community is losing the battle to protect the most vulnerable and promote an inclusive, fair global order. Tackling current challenges and uncertainties should prompt Member States to embrace the same vision of the central role the United Nations plays in crafting a collective response. Indeed, the United Nations should become an organization for all people, including by restoring its authority to act and ensure respect for its various resolutions. Standing at a crossroads, the United Nations must meet many expectations, he said, emphasizing the need to reform the Security Council so it better represents the world.
Meanwhile, other pressing concerns need urgent attention, he said, highlighting that the fight against climate change can be won only if it is recognized as a threat to peace and security. Moreover, a minimum moral and political consensus must guide actions to deal with crises stemming from conflict, war and the spread of disease, he said, underlining the need for all to honour the commitment to the responsibility to protect.
Focusing on solutions, he said collective security systems will work if the root causes of socio-political difficulties are identified and addressed. Human beings must be at the heart of the world’s concerns, as reiterated by recent conferences on the rights of children, women and other groups. Efforts must centre on narrowing development gaps and in examining inequalities that create to fertile ground for recruitment for terrorist groups. For its part, Côte d’Ivoire has established a national development plan to address those and other concerns, he said, adding that the Government has adopted security-related measures to combat national and regional threats.
Turning to several national concerns, he said his country is working on addressing the challenge of unregulated migration. Calling for a collective drive to resolve the issue, which affected many young people in Africa, he viewed the challenges from a development perspective, emphasizing the importance of broadening opportunities for youth. Pointing out that 26 per cent of Côte d’Ivoire’s population are foreigners, he highlighted the benefits of regulating the migration crisis for countries of origin, transit and destination. Managing migration well would also benefit the fight against human trafficking. More broadly, the Agenda 2063 of the African Union demonstrates that the continent can transform itself into the “new frontier” for development, he said, reiterating the need to find collective responses to common challenges.
EPSY CAMPBELL BARR, Vice-President of Costa Rica, said that the fact that the United Nations General Assembly is presided over by a woman is part of a new moment in history in which gender equality is built on concrete action. For the first time, Costa Rica’s Parliament has achieved gender parity. The country now benefits from the talent, capacity, knowledge and leadership of women in these positions of power. Highlighting her commitment to gender parity in the United Nations and the specific steps to achieve it, she said that women’s economic empowerment is important for their autonomy and their participation in the labour force significantly contributes to the economy, their families, communities and society in general. Costa Rica and the United Kingdom will co-chair the Group of Champions for Women's Economic Empowerment.
Costa Rica’s defence doctrine is based on dialogue and international law, she said. Democracy must be based on a robust electoral system, the protection of human rights, a modern legal system and individual freedoms. Costa Rica wants to be a part of a community of nations with rules of co-existence. Even though some countries protest the interference of United Nations bodies or regret their financial contributions to the Organization, for Costa Rica and for many other countries the United Nations is “the last gleam of hope”, she said, adding: “We should not let them down”.
Condemning terrorism, which gravely affects women and girls, she stressed the importance of promoting justice, human rights and education, adding that Costa Rica rejects all forms of violence. Since last year, Costa Rica has contributed to United Nations peacekeeping, sending female police officers to serve as international observers for the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia. On ending impunity, she expressed support for the International Criminal Court, and for bolstering it as victims deserved justice. Costa Rica supports complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and lifting the embargo on Cuba. She deplored the fact that sexual violence is used as a tactic of terror and a weapon of war to scare communities, reaffirming support for zero tolerance of such abuse. Voicing support for multilateralism, she pointed at the Iran nuclear agreement and the Eritrean-Ethiopian peace accord as examples. Raising several other concerns, she said action was needed to advance the ban on nuclear weapons, and address human rights violations in Nicaragua, and to work towards a global compact on managing migration.
For its part, Costa Rica has taken many steps to work with all stakeholders, from civil society to the private sector. To achieve the 2030 Agenda, she underlined the need to recognize the multidimensional nature of poverty while paying special attention to middle-income countries so they could reach objectives and targets. Costa Rica is now working on a plan focusing on green options for, among other things, waste management, agri-food systems and models for livestock development. Emphasizing that the decarbonization of societies is this generation’s biggest challenge, she said Costa Rica aims at becoming a laboratory to do so, inviting Member States to follow suit. “We can be part of a new, enlightened generation with an inspiring vision of our potential,” she said. “Now is the time to forge a more sustainable, fairer future.” Indeed, the young, “enlightened generation” must be robustly supported, as they are the ones who will truly change the world.
K. P. SHARMA OLI, Prime Minister of Nepal, said his country had undergone a historic political transformation since 2006, a home‑grown peace process transforming armed conflict, restructuring the State and making Nepali people truly sovereign. Despite difficulties in the wake of devastating earthquakes, political leaders implemented a new constitution, with elections bringing women’s representation in elected bodies up to 41 per cent. “We remain committed to bridging the gap of the remaining 9 per cent,” he added. Nepal’s conflict transformation can serve as an inspiration for those longing for peace all over the world.
While Nepal’s foreign policy aims for “amity with all and enmity with none”, the world is at an important juncture facing many challenges including poverty, terrorism, climate change, food insecurity, forced displacement and intra‑State conflicts, he said. In that context, people struggling for rights, liberty, freedom and justice, including in Syria, Yemen and Palestine, must be heard.
Calling global implementation of the 2030 Agenda insufficient, he specified least developed countries as its battleground. Describing implementation of internationally agreed commitments as “far below our expectation”, he said sustainable development for least developed countries and landlocked least developed countries requires smooth access to markets, removal of trade barriers, financing and investment, transfer of technology and overcoming infrastructural bottlenecks.
Noting that climate change burdens poorer, vulnerable countries like Nepal, where snow‑clad mountains, known as water towers of the world, are receding and the impact on mountain and small island countries presents an existential threat, he said a matching and robust response is required, including implementation of the entirety of the Paris Agreement. While the frontiers of technology are ever expanding, he also saw a widening digital divide. Least developed countries need easy access to affordable technology to create a level playing field.
Nepal reaffirms its support for general and complete disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction, welcoming recent efforts towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and commending the beginning of the Kathmandu Process in the Asia‑Pacific region. Hoping for the formal adoption of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, he noted Nepal has hosted thousands of refugees for decades and said the international community must uphold the right of refugees to safely return home with full dignity. Nepal has responded to every United Nations peacekeeping call “even at the shortest notice and without national caveats”. Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, he condemned attacks on peacekeepers and the indignity of sexual exploitation and abuse. However, Nepal’s experience shows that peacekeeping cannot do what politically negotiated settlements can. Declaring a total, unflinching commitment to human rights, he also underscored the centrality of the United Nations as a multilateral forum, as global problems can only be overcome by global solutions.
ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said that, more than ever, the world needs leadership that values multilateralism, trust and the moral responsibility to help those in need. Recalling that 2018 has been characterized by the fear of nuclear war “as if we have not learnt from the wrongs of the past”, he said the Pacific region is still coping with the effects of nuclear tests carried out decades ago. Through the Boe Declaration on Pacific Regional Security, Pacific leaders are calling for urgent action on human as well as military security, he said, adding that it was in that spirit that Tuvalu two days ago signed the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty.
While commending the successful outcome of this week’s high‑level meetings on non‑communicable diseases and tuberculosis, he said rhetoric alone is not enough. Healthy lifestyles and diets must be promoted as a matter of urgency, supported by adequate financing and monitoring to ensure integrated progress. For its part, he said, Tuvalu has introduced Friday afternoon “sweat breaks” for all workers and has encouraged villagers to pursue more physical activities such as fishing and gardening.
For small island developing States and least developed countries, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals depends on how the world tackles climate change, he said. Current global warming trends point to a very bleak and miserable future for low‑lying atolls like Tuvalu – a future that demands huge investments for mitigation and adaptation that are simply beyond their capabilities. “Climate change is a weapon of mass destruction. It is slaughtering fellow human beings worldwide,” he said. The United Nations must not allow the biggest greenhouse gas emitters to turn away from their moral duty to reduce their emissions and to save small island developing States like Tuvalu with adaptation support. Every single year without action on climate change will draw Tuvalu a year closer to its demise, he said, appealing to the Assembly not to let that happen.
Describing the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as a critical milestone, he acknowledged efforts in the Security Council to add climate change to that body’s peace and security agenda. He reiterated Tuvalu’s call for the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for climate change and security, as well as a Special Rapporteur who would report on security threats caused by climate change. In addition, he repeated his country’s proposal for the United Nations to establish a legal process to protect the human rights of those displaced by climate change.
He went on to call on the United Nations to provide strong leadership to drive genuine partnerships to address ocean‑related issues, including acidification, coral bleaching, solids waste and plastic pollution, and both inshore and offshore fisheries. The interests of small island developing States must be reflected in ongoing discussions on marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. On Taiwan, he said the United Nations must enable it to participate in its meetings, activities and mechanisms. He added that the unilateral economic embargo on Cuba neglects that country’s human rights and spirit of cooperation. Likewise, the United Nations must engage with the people of West Papua to find a lasting solution to their struggle, he said.
SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, recalled her father’s work to improve his country’s socioeconomic development at a time when 90 per cent of its population lived below the poverty line. In 1975, he was assassinated along with 18 other members of her family, and she — who was abroad at the time — was barred from re‑entering Bangladesh. A military dictator took power and her family was denied the right to seek justice for the gruesome murders. “I can feel the pain and suffering of countless people around the world, persecuted and expelled from their homes like the Rohingya,” she said. Indeed, the situation in neighbouring Myanmar is a reminder of the genocide committed by Pakistani occupying forces against the people of Bangladesh in 1971.
Emphasizing that her Government is appalled by recent United Nations reports about the atrocities committed against the Rohingya population – which are also tantamount to genocide and crimes against humanity – she voiced the expectation that the international community, and particularly the United Nations, give due importance to that population. Having lived abroad as a refugee herself, she expressed the pain and misery of losing one’s loved ones and of living in a different land. For those reasons, she presented to the Assembly in 2017 a five‑point proposal aimed at finding a durable, peaceful solution to the suffering of the forcibly displaced Rohingya. “We are disappointed that despite our earnest efforts, we have not been able to begin a Rohingya repatriation in a permanent and sustainable manner.”
Outlining Bangladesh’s attempts to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis as well as its support for the 1.1 million refugees that fled into the country, she said the Government is building a new housing facility including arrangements for education, health care and other needs. Calling on international organizations to join in those initiatives - as well as to help relocate the Rohingya to the facility – she went on describe Bangladesh’s deployment of over 158,000 peacekeepers in 54 United Nations missions. In addition, as its original proponent, Bangladesh supports a more robust and human rights–centric Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration.
Reiterating Bangladesh’s firm commitment to stand against terrorism and all organized crime, she said it will not allow its territory to be used for any such acts. Indeed, the country maintains a zero‑tolerance policy in countering terrorism and a “whole of society” approach to preventing violent extremism, human trafficking and the flow of illicit drugs. Aligning herself with the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem led by the United States, she went on to describe Bangladesh’s overall inclusive, people‑centric development policies. She also outlined its rising GDP, its increasing use of renewable energy and its peaceful use of nuclear energy.
“Bangladesh is now recognized as a global development model,” she said, noting that it has begun its journey from a least developed country to a developing country. That path will be inextricably linked with its implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is integrated in its seventh Five Year Plan. She also spotlighted “immense and large‑scale” business opportunities — noting that foreign investors are being offered various financial incentives to do business in Bangladesh — and its success in boosting school enrolment rates, improving women’s participation in Government, reducing child and maternal mortality, bringing sanitation to 99 per cent of its people and delivering safe drinking water to 88 per cent.
PEDRO SÁNCHEZ PÉREZ-CASTEJÓN, President of Spain, began by highlighting that for the first time in history a Latin American woman is presiding over the General Assembly. “I am a feminist politician,” he added. It is time to cultivate new cooperative leadership, based not only on a willingness to listen to others, but also a readiness to understand their motivations. It is time to accept that no single person has a monopoly on the truth, he said. Spain is fully committed to the 2030 Agenda, he added, stressing that the dignity of every single human being must be at the heart of all political action.
Without dignity and equality between women and men, without human rights, there can be no peace or development, he continued. “There is no greater injustice than that which defines what a human being will or will not be, based on whether they are born a boy or a girl,” he stressed. Calling for the development of a global road map to eradicate all forms of discrimination suffered by women, he said that gender‑based violence, trafficking of women and girls, and female genital mutilation must be stopped.
His cabinet of Ministers is 60 per cent women, he said, commending the Secretary‑General on having reached full parity in his Senior Management Group for the first time in the history of the Organization. It is crucial that women participate as peace brokers in all phases of conflicts. He also stressed the need to address the global migrant crisis, pledging commitment to the Global Compact on Refugees. While Spain has suffered the calamity of the economic crisis more than any other Western European country, it has never turned its back on migrants.
He went on to underscore that more than 15 million girls will never have the chance to learn to read and write, and that 330 million women are living on less than $2 a day. Pledging Spain’s full commitment to the 2030 Agenda, he said his country adopted its own action plan to implement sustainable development. It focuses on combating gender violence, child poverty and energy poverty. In addition, Spain is also committed to tackling climate change. “Our future depends on renewable energy and clean technologies,” he added, expressing strong support also for the Paris Agreement.
Terrorism is still one of the major threats to freedom, he said, stressing the need to combat hatred and violence. “We must do all that we can to prevent young people from falling prey to fanaticism,” he emphasized. It is essential to invest in education and young people. The spread of armed conflict demands the international community’s attention. More than 160,000 Spanish troops have served, with loyalty and commitment, to United Nations peacekeeping operations. He expressed support for the France/Mexico initiative to limit the use of veto power in cases of mass atrocities and for reform of the United Nations proposed by the Secretary‑General.
ANA BRNABIĆ, Prime Minister of Serbia, saying at the outset it was a “pleasure to see a fellow stateswoman presiding over this important institution”, turned to a range of global challenges that require targeted action. Climate change, migration, terrorism and the rise of populism must be addressed first by individuals, then at national, regional and global levels. Stating she is often asked why Serbia would strive to join the European Union when others are leaving it, she answered that its basic value, like that of the United Nations, is peace. The European Union is important to forging sustainable peace, stability and prosperity in the Balkans, “this troubled region of the world that used to be known as the powder keg of Europe”, she said.
Expressing pride in Serbia’s recent accomplishments, she pointed to macroeconomic stability, unemployment cut in half, and one of the highest economic growth rates in Europe, with ever greater foreign investment. Embarking on comprehensive public administration reform, she said her Administration believes “we are there to serve, and not to be served”. The country is strengthening the rule of law through reforming the judiciary, working with media, establishing honest dialogue with civil society organizations and building institutions to fight organized crime and corruption.
Strongly emphasizing the importance of regional cooperation and security to her country, she acknowledged that the area has always been known for and proud of “our excessive emotions, sacrifices, poetic struggles, traditional animosities”. However, today Serbia is trying to leave that in the past and become more reasonable, pragmatic, proud of its victories rather than losses, and to build unexpected friendships. Turning to the issue of Kosovo, she pointed out that less than half of Member States recognize the unilateral declaration of its independence, while more than half, representing 5 billion people, refuse to recognize its illegal secession. Serbia is trying to “close Pandora’s Box”, which was opened a decade ago with this unilateral declaration of independence.
Underlining Serbia’s commitment to peace and that it is “behaving as an adult”, she provided examples of how the country had advanced that concept. While Serbia signed and implemented the Brussels Agreement more than five years ago, Priština has signed, but has not yet implemented the accord. Although dialogue with Priština was “sometimes hopeless and wasteful”, she stated that Serbia will remain committed to finding a compromise that will ensure sustainable peace, prosperity and a brighter future for all in the region. She asked the international community for undiluted and consistent support for Serbia’s efforts.
Turning to youth, she said the entire international community must invest more than ever in education to create more innovative, braver, more free‑thinking individuals who will then create a world that is freer, fairer and even more fun. As a country with many young people, Serbia makes it an absolute priority to support them, creating a system and institutions to enable them to reach their full potential.
RUHAKANA RUGUNDA, Prime Minister of Uganda, said that his country’s development transformation cannot take place without peace and security. Uganda must be unwavering in its resolve to combat terrorism. Religious extremism and terrorism from groups like Al‑Shabaab and Boko Haram severely threaten security and development. The threat is compounded today given the possibility of the linkage between terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Uganda remains committed to multilateralism as a means of achieving comprehensive and equitable solutions to global challenges. To respond successfully to global crises, the international community needs an efficient multilateral system.
Uganda supports comprehensive reform of the Security Council, he continued, noting that African issues dominate the body’s agenda. For a continent of 54 countries, Africa must have a bigger voice in the global political debate. This would also help increase the legitimacy of Council decisions. Strengthening South‑South cooperation is also essential for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. In the 40 years of its existence, South‑South cooperation has proven to be a valuable avenue for building capacity and promoting development in developing countries.
He said that since the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) some 11 years ago, the country has seen tremendous progress. The Somali Government, previously based out of the country, moved back to Mogadishu in 2007. More than 80 per cent of areas dominated by Al‑Shabaab have been liberated. Such positive developments would have hardly been possible without the contribution and sacrifice of the Mission and Somali security forces. Thus, any reduction in Mission troops must correspond with the strengthening of Somali troops. On South Sudan, he welcomed the recently signed revitalised Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan.
Climate change remains a major challenge to Uganda achieving sustainable development, he said, expressing support for the climate pact signed in Paris. “We must continue to muster the necessary political will to fully implement the agreement,” he stressed. Financing the most vulnerable countries is critical for their ability to mitigate climate change. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda coincided with the onset of what would become Uganda’s single largest refugee influx in history.
“We now host 1.4 million, the largest number of refugees on the African continent,” he said. Uganda remains committed to ensuring its refugee model is consistent with the New York Declaration. “We do this because we know that no one chooses to be a refugee and understand the critical importance of treating refugees humanely,” he continued. The new Global Compact on Refugees will help share the responsibility and burden among all Member States.
LYONPO TSHERING WANGCHUK, Chief Adviser of the Interim Government of Bhutan, said that the reform of the United Nations, including the Security Council, must focus on accommodating the interests and concerns of all Member States, particularly the unrepresented and underrepresented. Bhutan is well on track to implementing the 2030 Agenda. As a tiny landlocked country in the Himalayas, Bhutan started its development in 1961. While it has achieved two of the three thresholds to be eligible to graduate from the group of least developed countries, it was not able to achieve the Economic Vulnerability Index threshold. Bhutan continues to face serious economic challenges and vulnerability to natural disasters.
Graduation from the group of least developed countries must be done in a sustainable manner by building productive capacity and economic resilience, he said, stressing the need to ensure that there is no back slippage on hard‑earned development gains. Graduation must be sustainable without disrupting ongoing development plans. The ever‑increasing environmental pressures from climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, soil degradation, and air and water pollution have far‑reaching economic and social consequences, which contribute to poverty and social inequality.
“Earth cannot and must not be the monopoly of homo sapiens,” he said, recalling a Buddhist tenet associated with conservation and protection of the five elements of the planet. He called on leaders to tackle climate change and expressed support for the Paris Agreement. As a small developing country with a population of half a million people, Bhutan remains fully committed to the cause of international peace and security. It has also been working towards gradually broadening and deepening engagement with United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Since Bhutan’s 2008 transition from an absolute benevolent monarchy to a democratic constitutional monarchy, it has had two elected Governments, he continued. The term of the second elected Government concluded last month and the third parliamentary elections are under way. The primary round of elections just concluded on 15 September; the general round of elections are slated for 18 October, and the new Government is planned to be sworn in by early November. Over the past decade, the people of Bhutan have focused on establishing a strong, functional and intelligent democracy, he added.
ISMAEL OULD CHEIKH AHMED, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mauritania, noted a range of challenges including hunger, disease, wars and natural disasters. As host of the thirty-first African Union Summit to overcome corruption in Africa, he said Mauritania has adopted procedures to fight that challenge, establishing oversight agencies, implementing transparency, updating tax collection and enacting fiscal reforms. The country has also built roads, airports and seaports and made drinking water and electrical power more widely available. Aiming to accelerate economic growth, he said it should exceed 4 per cent this year. To mitigate the effects of climate change, Mauritania has adopted a national policy to use renewable energy and combat sand invasion, and it has ratified all international agreements on the issue, he said, noting that Mauritania is involved in the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel initiative.
Citing the importance of justice and the equitable distribution of wealth, the country has enacted measures to uphold the judiciary and protect freedom of the press, “the best avenue to enhance the practice of democracy”, he said. Mauritania has abolished prison sentences for press cases and made public media outlets available to all political actors, allowing the country to maintain its ranking as number one among all Arab countries for press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders. Open dialogue has been fostered between parties of the majority and opposition, leading to constitutional amendments enhancing democracy and the allocation of public funds.
For the first time in history, Mauritania held elections to create councils for local governance, held under an independent election commission, he said. Women occupied important positions both in voting and seats won, with a quota allocated to women in all political positions, a sign of significant progress. The country has also set up vocational training for youth. Addressing human rights, he said Mauritania is working to improve prisons and protect prisoners from torture, and to finally eliminate any remnants of slavery, establishing ad hoc courts to combat that scourge — a move praised by a United Nations special rapporteur. Mauritania has long supported the South African people and honoured the late Nelson Mandela with a main thoroughfare in the capital of Nouakchott named after him.
Given its special geographical position in the Arab and African spheres, he said Mauritania plays a pivotal role in the Group of Five for the Sahel and fighting terrorism. The country is closely following the issue of Western Sahara and hoping for a solution that benefits all parties. Turning to the question of Palestine, Mauritania calls for a viable solution leading to a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. He supported the High Level African Union Committee on Libya and confirmed the need for a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Calling for an end to division in Yemen and supporting United Nations efforts to solve that crisis, he also condemned terrorism in Somalia and highlighted the need for peace in its territories. Strongly condemning the killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, he said the international community must come to their aid, and reaffirmed Mauritania’s implementation of all its international commitments.
AURELIA FRICK, Foreign Minister of Liechtenstein, said that, while it is a “great joy” to see a woman preside over the Assembly, it is also disappointing to see the United Nations so frequently miss the opportunity to make appointments that resonate outside the building. Turning to climate change, she said: “We ourselves have created a threat to our sheer existence — as the human race, as individuals.” Climate change knows no national borders. “Our very survival is at stake. And yet, we are significantly behind what is necessary to do,” she added, underscoring that the Secretary‑General is right to sound the alarm.
“We need more United Nations, not less — more effective, more cooperation, more dynamic, more in tune with the times we live in,” she continued. Wilful blindness, ignoring the realities, denying the facts and appealing to fear and resentment are recipes for disaster. The questioning of international agreements and norms in the areas of trade, climate change, disarmament, migration and human rights have one common threat. It undermines not just the contents of those agreements; it is also an attack on rules‑based order.
Expressing concern that the Security Council is “least functional when it is most needed”, she stressed the need to ensure accountability for the crimes committed in Syria. For the atrocities committed against the Rohingya population, the International Criminal Court offers a path to justice. From Syria to Myanmar to Venezuela, the Court is at the centre of the effort to fight impunity. And yet, it continues to be attacked from different sides. “More than ever, we need this Court,” she stressed.
She further expressed concern over the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking, noting that over 40 million people, mostly women and girls, live in servitude. Liechtenstein has joined forces with Australia and others to help eliminate modern slavery and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. The 2030 Agenda is a step in the right direction to finally eliminate slavery.
LEJEUNE MBELLA MBELLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, said that persistent, hotbeds of tensions in Africa and the Middle East, and the emergence of new challenges such as migration and natural disasters, shake the very foundation of civilization. These issues along with the unprecedented interdependence of people requires a strong United Nations. The legitimacy of the Organization depends on Member States and United Nations reform, particularly in the Security Council. “We cannot afford to be marginalized,” he said.
The well-being of human beings depends on the international community’s ability to unite to fight poverty and promote democracy, he said. Migrants must be treated with dignity and respect. Poverty, unemployment, and falling purchasing power impinge on human dignity. They shatter peace and cause human movement. The question of migratory flows should remind everyone of the importance of effective solidarity and shared prosperity. Turning to collective security, he said that the settlement of internal conflicts must continue to adhere to the principles of the United Nations Charter. Efforts on disarmament need to be intensified.
More than 90 per cent of victims of war are killed by small arms and light weapons, he continued. Such weapons are increasingly falling into the hands of armed groups such as Boko Haram. Under Cameroon’s leadership, the States of Central Africa are committed to combating the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. They intend to strengthen cooperation and coordination and pool resources. On economic recovery, he said that growth is below what is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Honouring existing commitments of official development assistance (ODA) is not enough to meet the funding needs of the 2030 Agenda.
He underscored the need to transform the structure of many African economies. It is more vital than ever to help African countries alleviate their debt burden and move their products to global markets. He called for a universal multilateral trading system that is equitable and fair. For its part, Cameroon has pursued the development of its productive sectors and the preservation of its climate. He called for a host of urgent actions to help conserve Lake Chad, adding: “This is a question of life or death.” The situation is deteriorating in two regions of Cameroon, he said, expressing concern for the state of the economy there and calling for international support.
AUGUSTINE PHILLIP MAHIGA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that at present most societies are not peaceful, equitable or sustainable. The world is still facing many violent conflicts, resulting in massive loss of life, terrorism threats, refugees and migration. Hunger and poverty persist. Addressing these challenges requires leadership. Unfortunately, these miseries are mainly man-made and can be prevented through collective measures. Highlighting the power of multilateralism, he noted that the United Nations can ensure peaceful, equitable, and sustainable societies. Unfortunately, multilateral institutions are being put to the test. For example, the World Trade Organization is being undermined. In addition, climate change and global warming is wreaking havoc, he said, stressing the need to rectify the shortcomings in the multilateral system.
The United Republic of Tanzania is unreservedly committed to multilateralism — the path to address critical global challenges such as terrorism, extremism, radicalism, climate change, trafficking, drugs, pandemics, immigration dynamics and poverty, he said. Diplomatic engagement is a way to address differences peacefully and in this regard, the United Republic of Tanzania has assisted and witnessed the value of brokering peace. Noting that the Assembly has discussed United Nations reform for decades, he stressed the need for the “almost stalemated negotiations” of the Security Council to move forward, but in a consultative manner that will preserve the positions of all parties concerned.
Turning to the situation of refugees, he noted the historical role played by the United Republic of Tanzania in providing sanctuary for decades to refugee from Central and Southern Africa, something done out of humanity and internationally agreed principles. Currently the country is hosting 330,000 refugees mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition, it has also been involved in resolving regional conflicts in the Great Lakes region and has assisted in the voluntary repatriation of more than 46,000 Burundian refugees, in collaboration with Burundian authorities, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other development partners. In this regard, he asked the international community to facilitate and support the ongoing voluntary repatriation of the remaining Burundian refugees.
Addressing another issue in the region, he noted the political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been continuously destabilized by warring factions. This situation has denied that country the opportunity to develop, and it threatens regional peace. He encouraged the international community to extend logistical and financial support to the Democratic Republic of the Congo so that it can successfully complete the necessary preparations for elections. Moving on to other parts of the world, he hoped for the total removal of the embargo against Cuba and a renewed opportunity to resolve issues in Western Sahara and in Palestine.
MAHMOUD ALI YOUSSOUF, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Djibouti, said that although there is a consensus for United Nations reforms, an inertia continues to hinder them. On the international scene, major upheaval is a significant cause of concern. The number of people leaving their countries is growing, and this migratory flow has contributed to bitter political debate in many northern countries which may prevent the international community from building a better world. The crisis in multilateralism is a consequence of this, contradicting the collaborative notion of “I am someone else”. He welcomed that in response to this, the international community has mobilized to adopt reforms initiated by the Security-General for development, management, and peace and security architecture. Hailing the finalization of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, he added that finalizing the Global Compact for Refugees will be an important development. If the United Nations cannot solve the crises that create refugees, it must meet their needs.
While the Sustainable Development Goals require the collection of useful data, he underscored that the 2030 Agenda depends not only on innovative finance strategies, but that commitments already made are honoured. The greatest threat to this is worldwide conflict and violence, with the expansion of terrorism calling for a response that differs from conventional peacekeeping operations and diplomacy.
However, the Horn of Africa has witnessed positive developments. Highlighting the thaw in relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea as the inauguration of a new age of relations between them, he said the region had felt immediate consequences. The presidents of Djibouti and Eritrea recently met and agreed to open a new chapter between “these two brother countries” and continue dialogue on remaining issues. He expressed hope that the recent peace deal in South Sudan will be successful, as the people there have greatly suffered. Somalia is building robust governing institutions, but it was necessary to combat those opposing progress, like Al-Shabaab. Paying tribute to the troops of AMISOM, he said support for Somali forces is vital for the handover of security responsibilities.
Turning to the issue of Palestine, he said there is no alternative to the two-State solution, and that the plight of Palestinian refugees calls upon all our consciences. Citing the “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya people, he said the international community must put pressure on the Government of Myanmar to resolve the crisis. The United Nations plays a key role in peace and international cooperation, and it is therefore incumbent upon everyone to support it. Djibouti looks forward to building a world of greater security and prosperity.
WORKINEH GEBEYEHU NEGEWO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, stressed that amid serious challenges multilateralism is needed more than ever, adding that the United Nations is the only universal organization represents the same ideals today as it did at its inception: freedom, equality and justice. Ethiopia is a founding United Nations member; its contribution to peacekeeping is second to none and it fully endorses the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative and the Declaration of Shared Commitments to United Nations Peacekeeping.
The peaceful power transfer that took place six months ago in Ethiopia opened a new chapter in the country’s political and social history, offering realistic and genuine possibilities of change that will meet the hopes and expectations of youth and that have been embraced by Ethiopians nationwide. Highlighting the strength and resilience of Ethiopians in times of adversity, he made clear that “no difficulties are insurmountable”. Reforms necessary to promote democratic governance and the rule of law, fairness and justice, better financial and economic management, transparency and accountability are under way. “In the last six months we have exerted every effort to make sure all this, together with our message of forgiveness and reconciliation, strengthens the unity and solidarity of our people,” he said.
Turning to the Horn of Africa, he noted the launch of reconciliation across the region, thus starting a real process of normalization, pointing to the end of the two decades of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Eritrea and Somalia. Furthermore, a trilateral summit among Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia was held in Asmara earlier in the month, followed by a visit to Djibouti, a clear demonstration of the value and effectiveness of African solutions to African problems. Recently, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a further comprehensive agreement. “In light of these important and positive developments, it is only appropriate and timely that the Security Council now seriously considers lifting the sanctions imposed on Eritrea,” he said.
Such major developments offer “a start to unravelling years of conflict and suspicion across the region”, he said, adding: “A region which has been one of the most conflict-ridden in Africa, Horn of Africa is indeed becoming hope of Africa.” It is equally important to extend the process to promote a regional economic integration framework to fight poverty, which will both help rid violence and war as well as promote deeper regional and continental integration in line with Agenda 2063. Regional integration is the only viable option for meaningful development, he said, as the historic, cultural, social and linguistic links that bind the people of the region form a proper basis to strive for common prosperity. Lastly, he reaffirmed his support as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in the efforts of creating peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies on the African continent.
ROBERT DUSSEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Togo, called for expanding the legitimacy and reach of the United Nations. “We must shoulder the new responsibilities that have emerged,” he emphasized. The time has come to invent a new paradigm. He reiterated Togo’s full support to the reform plans of the Organization as proposed by Secretary-General António Guterres. Reform on the peace and security pillar of the Organization will make it more effective. Peace and security must go hand-in-hand with promoting human rights.
Turning to the 2030 Agenda, he called on the United Nations to help developing countries take that “extra step forward”. The system must be repositioned towards enhanced accountability. On climate change, he expressed support for the Paris Agreement. An effective response to climate change is essential for the achievement of sustainable development. The United Nations can do more to invest in people which will in turn promote development and peace in the world. The challenges facing Africa are huge, as the continent is confronting with new forces.
Poverty is still too present in Africa, he said, adding: “The people are still awaiting a better day.” African youth and migrants require a sustainable response. The emergence of peaceful, equitable, prosperous and sustaining societies cannot happen if we do not have mutually advantageous partnerships. The United Nations could do more to coordinate its actions on subregional and regionals organizations. Touching on Africa’s Agenda 2063, he outlined the many ongoing initiatives focused on integration.
“We must redouble efforts to put an end to conflicts, especially in Africa,” he continued, noting United Nations peacekeeping activities on his continent. He welcomed a shared vision of responsibility, which would allow all Member States of the United Nations to take charge and action. Togo’s national plan aligns with the 2030 Agenda with the Government aiming to turn the country into a middle-income country. Togo strives to improve the standard of living of its citizens and reduce pockets of poverty.
Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of right of reply, said the Israeli regime has a long history of following an opportunistic policy to mislead others. It aims to divert attention from its inhumane and savage actions towards Palestinians and other Arab nations. Israel’s “showman” misses no opportunity to tell monstrous lies and distort reality. This is meant to distract attention from his regime’s killing of defenceless women and innocent children. He attempts to mask Israel’s face as the last apartheid regime in the world. “This is the only regime in the world that openly practices racism,” he said. No amount of lies will ever cover up the criminal nature of Israel, which is led by a corrupt leader who pretends to be progressive and democratic. He compared Israel’s fanaticism to that of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and the Nazis. A democracy for racists that crushes the true owners of Palestine is a mockery and a tyranny, he added. Israel is the enemy of democracy in the Middle East. Israel has violated 300 Security Council resolutions, and the United States has used its veto power a total of 44 times to shield Israel from Security Council resolutions. He said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lied today when he presented evidence of Iran’s plan to obtain nuclear weapons. “Lying is in his DNA,” he said. Israel must cease its destabilizing conduct in the Middle East, its regular violations of Syrian and Lebanese airspace, and its airstrikes in Syria, which serve as support for terrorist groups. The time when Israel attacks its neighbours with impunity has passed, he warned.