As the General Assembly concluded its high‑level debate amid calls for regional solidarity, multilateralism and respect for human rights, Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador) said discussions over the past week underscored not only the relevance of the 193‑member organ, but the Organization as a whole.
The debate has set the tone for the Assembly’s work for the coming year, Ms. Espinosa noted, highlighting the almost unanimous agreement on the irreplaceability of the United Nations. She also lauded the political declaration on tuberculosis and combatting non‑communicable diseases that were adopted in the past week, as well as the signing by seven‑countries and the ratification by four of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
She also said that speakers presented a snapshot of the state of the world today and of the role that befalls the United Nations in its aim towards multilateralism, adding that it is heartening to see countries defend multilateralism. In addition, speakers focused on issues of sustainable development and the threats of climate change.
World leaders also marked the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she said, and discussed gender equality and safe migration, as well. She concluded the general debate with a call to action: “We need to make a difference and the time to do that is now.”
Throughout the last day of the debate, world leaders highlighted the benefits of regional cooperation and dialogue as a means to promote sustainable development, security and stability, with speakers urging all States to pursue multilateralism in the face of global challenges.
Vladimir Makei, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said that his country is located at the heart of Europe, making it susceptible to the shocks of conflict in the region. True sustainability cannot be maintained without security and only strong States can support security and the safety of their populations. He called for dialogue to pursue peace and stability between Euro‑Atlantic and Eurasian States. He also underscored the value of dialogue to address global challenges. Reflecting on whether one day or one meeting can change history, he cited the great Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru who called this moment a tryst with destiny. “The common task lying before us is to increase the number of such moments,” he said.
Eldirdiri Mohamed Ahmed, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sudan, acknowledging the partnership between the United Nations and African Union in Darfur as well as the donor countries that promote stability and finance development projects, stressed that negotiations are the only path to peace. Welcoming the recently signed peace agreement with South Sudan, he further commended efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Acknowledging that the separation of South Sudan from Sudan was not easy, he said that Sudan has made many sacrifices for South Sudan. More so, those who doubt must give peace a chance.
Virasakdi Futrakul, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, highlighted the need for multilateral cooperation and support, lauding the 27,000 Thai military and police officers who have served in more than 20 peacekeeping and related missions. Stressing that his country was one of the first States to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he emphasized that regional peace and stability in Southeast Asia is being strengthened as a result of the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty by all countries in the region. Southeast Asia has taken the first step towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free region, he said, adding: “Why not the rest of the Indo-Pacific countries?”
Uzbekistan’s representative pointed out that the situation in Central Asia today is better than it was not too long ago, with a higher level of trust between States and stronger good neighbourly relations. Significant progress has been made in such areas as border demarcation and water management. However, the world is becoming increasingly unstable, testing the effectiveness of multilateral institutions. It is therefore crucial to strengthen the central role of the United Nations, including through Security Council reforms. He also asked Member States to support the initiative by his country’s President to develop a United Nations convention on the rights of youth and a General Assembly resolution titled “Enlightenment and religious tolerance”.
Noting ongoing conflict and human rights violations around the world, speakers called for reinforced humanitarian assistance initiatives.
It is scandalous to see human rights still violated seven decades after adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary of Relations with States for the Holy See. He informed the Assembly that 1 in 10 children still suffer child labour, 1 in 3 people currently in detention are held without trial, 29 per cent of children under age 5 have no birth registration and 250 million women are married before the age of 15. Tens of millions of others are ensnared in forms of modern slavery.
For its part, Sweden’s representative said the country was increasing its financial contributions to the United Nations‑led global humanitarian response system and improving the effectiveness of its common efforts through engagement in the Grand Bargain process. Citing the Horn of Africa as an encouraging example, he said positive dynamics in the region are a testament to what a difference courageous leaders and peoples can make.
Also speaking today were ministers and representatives of Nicaragua, Tajikistan, Gabon, Canada, Benin, Timor-Leste and Maldives.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Iran, Armenia, Vanuatu, United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 2 October to resume the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.
VLADIMIR MAKEI, Minister for Foreign Relations of Belarus, pointing to the endorsement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, said the international community will soon green light two instruments that will inspire hope for change: the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees. The implementation of these initiatives will ensure that globalization is equitable. Because the search for answers to global challenges clearly shows no country can act alone, the United Nations must continue to act as an efficient tool for multilateral cooperation. Further, achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda requires effective United Nations country teams, he said.
Pursuing globalization for the common good is a key objective that faces geopolitical and geo-economics fault lines, he continued. A “civilizational trap” is emerging that fosters confrontation. Belarus, located at the heart of Europe, is squeezed between two geopolitical power centres; conflict in Ukraine impacts its economic development. His country is heavily dependent on external markets and supports a fair international trade architecture. His Government is particularly interested in cooperation between the Eurasia Economic Union and European Union, he said, pointing to national approaches that foster integration and economic growth. In addition, development that leaves nobody behind requires support for middle‑income countries, home to 5 billion people and 75 per cent of the world’s poor. It is unfair that progress in development is gauged exclusively based on per capita income.
Humanity is entering a new era as digital technology drastically transforms lives, he noted. Belarus is pursuing policies that will transform it into a leading information technology country. Digital technologies are “rocket fuel” for economic development and improve education and stimulate business activity. However, digital markets will affect labour markets and countries will have to adapt their economies to the looming changes. The United Nations should establish international cooperation networks on digitization and sustainable development so that countries can find their own niche. Capacity building in this field is impossible without basing such efforts on principles of sustainability and prosperity.
True sustainability cannot be maintained without security, he underscored, welcoming United Nations efforts to mount a common front against terrorism. Belarus will convene a high‑level meeting on combating terrorism in the context of a digitizing world. The world faces unprecedented threats and challenges that could lead to a new Cold War. These threats point to a crisis in international diplomacy and divergent views among certain countries. The United Nations is becoming a stage for confrontation. Stability means ending geopolitical chaos while respecting State sovereignty and non‑interference in the affairs of other nations. Only strong States can support security and the safety of their populations, he said, adding that Belarus is promoting dialogue to pursue peace and stability between Euro‑Atlantic and Eurasian States. Reflecting on whether one day or one meeting can change history, he cited the great Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru who called this moment a "tryst with destiny". “The common task lying before us is to increase the number of such moments,” he said.
ELDIRDIRI MOHAMED AHMED, Minster for Foreign Affairs of Sudan, welcomed the leadership role of the United Nations to promote sustainable development, serve humanity and confront challenges. He commended the partnership between the United Nations and African Union in Darfur as well as the donor countries that promote stability and finance development projects. He also underscored his Government’s successes and the tangible results of a national campaign aimed at collecting small arms and light weapons. This has led to a reduction in crime and has curbed drug and human trafficking. He further commended the role of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
Negotiations are the only path to peace, he continued, calling for the opening of humanitarian corridors so that aid can reach people in need. Sudan’s Government has made ample effort to implement economic and fiscal reforms to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. However, despite efforts to mobilize local resources, unilateral sanctions imposed on Sudan have undermined its development and ability to engage in development activities. Sudan has the potential to achieve food security in the region, he said, adding: “You have to support our initiatives in that respect.”
Sudan did not support terrorism and must be lifted from the list of countries that does, he stressed. His country was and remains a sincere defender of justice and international cooperation. Unfortunately, the selective approach adopted by the International Criminal Court has caused it to lose its impartiality. He aligned his country’s position to that of the African Union, adding that the Court is nothing but a political tool. Turning to the migrant and refugee issue, he noted that his Government has hosted more than three million refugees despite the harsh realities it faces. He urged the international community to provide his country with financial support in this regard.
“We should not link any religion to terrorism,” he went on to say, adding that his Government rejects all forms of terrorism to achieve political objectives, including Islamophobia, abuse of religion and the spread of hatred. He also called on the international community to support regional initiatives to deal with various issues on the continent from conflict resolution to resource management. Small and light weapons have a direct relationship to transnational organized crime and must be dealt with. Welcoming the recently signed peace agreement with South Sudan, he further commended the efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Acknowledging that the separation of South Sudan from Sudan was not easy, he said that Sudan has made many sacrifices for South Sudan. More so, those who doubt must give peace a chance.
DENIS RONALDO MONCADA COLINDRES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, said that three years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the world is witnessing a crisis caused by savage capitalism, interference and violations of international law. His Government resisted an attempted coup d’état and is fostering peace and fraternal coexistence. Comparing the coup’s attempt to interventionism, he said that terrorist activity in the country was conducted under the guise of peaceful protests. Nicaragua stands for stability, peace and security in the region and is characterized by positive economic, political and social indicators. He reiterated that Nicaragua loves peace and promotes and defends human rights.
Nicaragua and its people defend the principles of independence and sovereignty, as established by the United Nations Charter, he continued, demanding the cessation of any interventionist policy that violates international law. The Government is working in a sustained manner to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the country is experiencing economic growth. In addition, the national poverty rate decreased from 42.5 per cent in 2009 to 24.9 per cent in 2016, he pointed out, warning of efforts by the United States to curb social, economic and social development in Nicaragua. He denounced that country’s move to introduce legislation that will order international financial organizations to oppose the granting of loans to Nicaragua.
International peace requires complete nuclear disarmament, he underscored, voicing his support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and adding his hope that nuclear weapons will be dismantled in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner with the international community contributing to lasting peace in the region. Nicaragua also supports nuclear negotiations with Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; that agreement demonstrates that dialogue and diplomacy are the best means to solve such problems. He also condemned the blockade imposed on Cuba and assassination attempts against the President of Venezuela. Noting the importance of supporting decolonization, he voiced his support for a two‑State solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict and for the Government of Syria in its fight against terrorism.
Calling for the reinvention of the United Nations, he said that process will transform the Organization into one that serves the interests of all its members. Furthermore, urgent action is needed to combat climate change. In that regard, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility remains in force. Major greenhouse gas emitters must contribute to the recovery of the planet. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals calls for the rejection of unilateral coercive measures that impede development. The international community must work for peace, respect, dialogue and sovereignty as part of a United Nations transformation process. Affirming Nicaragua’s commitment to fight for peace, he asserted that conflict can be overcome through dialogue.
ARCHBISHOP PAUL RICHARD GALLAGHER, Secretary of Relations with States for the Holy See, noted that despite positive developments in human rights, 1 in 10 children still suffer child labour, 1 in 3 people currently in detention are held without trial, 29 per cent of children under age 5 have no birth registration and 250 million women are married before the age of 15. Tens of millions of others are ensnared in forms of modern slavery. It is scandalous to see human rights still violated seven decades after adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he stated. It is especially concerning that a current within human rights discourse refuses to recognize the inherent value and dignity of human life at every stage of its beginning, development and end.
Turning to global flashpoints, he urged the international community to address the situation in Syria. Calling for a two‑State solution so Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace within internationally recognized borders, he said the Holy See is also concerned by the instability in Nicaragua and Venezuela, and the conflicts in Ukraine, Libya and the Central African Republic. However, recent developments in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as between Ethiopia and Eritrea are positive signs towards building peaceful, democratic societies. “Peace requires forgiveness,” he said. Terrorism is not an outgrowth of religion properly understood, but of spiritual poverty, as “killing others in the name of God offends God Himself”.
Affirming the equal rights of men and women, he noted that Pope Francis insists the world urgently needs a revolution of tenderness. Women have shown a special capacity for recognizing, affirming, nurturing and defending the inherent dignity of others. Yet, women’s indispensable role is often undervalued and that, in poor and developing countries, they lack access to basic medical assistance in childbirth, suffer sexual exploitation and forced marriage. Stating that the family is the greatest treasure for a country and future generations, the Catholic Church is committed not only to promoting the protection of children but to creating safe environments for them in its own institutions to address “the heinous scourge of sexual abuse and violence” against them.
VIRASAKDI FUTRAKUL, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, voicing support to make the Security Council more representative, inclusive and democratic, also lauded the 27,000 Thai military and police officers who have served in more than 20 peacekeeping and related missions. Stressing that his country was one of the first States to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he pointed out that all 10 Southeast Asian Nations have now ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Southeast Asia has taken the first step towards a nuclear‑weapon free region, he said, adding: “Why not the rest of the Indo-Pacific countries?”
On a national platform, his Government is committing to wide‑spread reforms towards implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, adding that local communities, in urban and rural areas, are being empowered to change for the better. Such reforms are based on the public‑private‑people‑partnership principle whereby the three sectors are united and engaged. In realizing Sustainable Development Goal 14, Thailand is the first Asian country to join a global initiative to clean up the oceans around tourist hotspots, he added, recalling that his country hosted a meeting of ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries with China to map a regional strategy as well. It is also working on raising public awareness on climate change and cooperating with countries in the region to mitigate the risks of natural disasters.
In addition, Thailand is finalizing its Fourth National Human Rights Plan for 2019 to 2023, with an aim to address a range of human rights challenges, including access to land and natural resources, rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, human rights defenders and freedom of the press. To that end, Thailand will make the private sector an indispensable partner, as well as engage with civil society. Other efforts include a number of new laws, including the Land Tax Bill to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, and the Prevention and Elimination of Forced Labour Bill to protect the rights of workers along with tackling trafficking in persons. Also recently ratified was the International Labour Organization’s protocol to Convention 29 on Forced Labour. “The Government’s policies aim at addressing human rights challenges in a structural manner and laying the foundation for a sustainable democracy in Thailand,” he said.
Thailand’s commitment to peace and security, development and human rights has contributed to its stability and prosperity, he underscored. In the past four years, its gross domestic product has grown from 0.9 to 3.9 per cent, national competitiveness has risen and tourists have returned to the country. The maternal mortality ratio, mortality rate of children and people’s access to universal health and education, as well as female employment have all improved. In 2019, as Thailand becomes the chair of ASEAN, it will strengthen the Association’s partnership with the United Nations and seek to foster the creation of a truly people‑centred community where no one is left behind. His country also seeks membership in the United Nations Economic and Social Council for 2020‑2022 to support the advancement of the 2030‑Agenda, he added, pointing out that it will contribute $200,000 to the Special Purpose Trust Fund to reinvigorate the Resident Coordinator System.
MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan) said today’s unprecedented global challenges threaten the very foundation of the world order and principles of international relations, as well as undermining efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The United Nations must continue to coordinate the efforts of Member States to enhance the resilience of countries to respond to modern challenges. Full implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Addis Ababa Action Agenda and Paris Agreement on climate change is required to address socioeconomic problems that are the main drivers of extremism and terrorism, he said.
He went on to stress that efforts to eradicate terrorism should focus on the elimination of military infrastructure of international terrorism, depriving it of support, as well as the prevention of information and communications technology (ICT) for radicalization, recruitment and propaganda. In May, Tajikistan convened the “Countering Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism” conference to discuss those issues. The United Nations must also remain a critical platform for achieving consensus on the main issues of international security. He also called for a comprehensive settlement and post‑conflict rehabilitation in Afghanistan targeted at economic recovery. His country is willing to take part in that process by connecting the transport arteries of the two countries with an “energy bridge” that provides the Afghan population with essential commodities and training specialists.
There are early signs that countries are not on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, urging that the means of implementation of those goals be strengthened, especially for developing countries. National development efforts also need to be supported by enabling international economic development with revitalized international trade and investments. Regarding Sustainable Development Goal 6, several events in 2017 had contributed to the advancement of the water agenda, including the joint United Nations and Tajikistan high‑level international conference on the Water Decade in Dushanbe in June. Following the success of that conference, Tajikistan will submit a draft proposal to the General Assembly on the mid‑term review of the implementation of the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, this fall.
BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan) gave an overview of his country’s democratic reforms - including its five‑year Strategy of Actions - with steps being taken to strengthen human rights and judicial independence, improve State governance and liberalize the economy. Those reforms are irreversible and enjoy broad popular support. In international relations, however, the world is becoming increasingly unstable, testing the effectiveness of multilateral institutions. It is therefore crucial to strengthen the central role of the United Nations, including through Security Council reforms. Noting Uzbekistan’s bid to sit on the Human Rights Council in 2021‑2023, he asked Member States to support its President’s initiative to develop a United Nations convention on the rights of youth and a General Assembly resolution titled “Enlightenment and religious tolerance”.
He went on to say that the situation in Central Asia today is better than it was not too long ago, with a higher level of trust between States and stronger good‑neighbourly relations. Significant progress has been made in such areas as border demarcation and water management. In addition, a regional economic forum is being planned for the near future and, in March 2019, Heads of State will meet again in a consultative forum in Tashkent. “We are now more convinced that we are united not only by our past, but by our common future,” he said, adding that Uzbekistan is proposing a draft General Assembly resolution on sustainable tourism in Central Asia.
A stable Afghanistan – a historical part of the region’s cultural‑civilizational space - is a prerequisite for sustainable development in Central Asia as a whole, he continued, emphasizing his Government’s readiness to create the conditions for organizing direct talks in Uzbekistan between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. The unanimous adoption of the Tashkent Declaration on Afghanistan in March reinforced the regional and global consensus on the need to launch those talks as soon as possible without preconditions. Negotiations between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, in the interest of the multinational Afghan people, would be a solid basis for advancing Afghanistan’s peace process, he stated.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda, said multilateralism is the ideal approach for building a more peaceful, just and inclusive world order. At a time when its underlying values are being put to the test, the United Nations must be modernized and provided with the tools to address today’s most pressing issues. Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals must be stepped up, with combatting poverty at the heart of the Organization’s actions. Emphasizing that poverty fuels extremism and, in turn, terrorism, he called for improved financing, innovative partnerships and technology transfers for developing countries.
He underscored Gabon’s commitment to implementing the Goals, including through a reform process that aims to speed up the diversification of its economy away from dependence on natural resources. He called for greater international efforts to fight terrorism, expressing concern that in many parts of Africa, groups like Boko Haram and Al‑Shabaab are sowing terror and destruction. Capacity building at the national, regional and subregional levels must be stepped up to ensure that States can ensure their own security. With financing from the international community, Africa can better respond to its security challenges, he said.
Greater support must be given to the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) force as well as prevention strategies and mechanisms that address root causes, he said. He noted Gabon’s ongoing participation in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), as well as efforts by the Secretary‑General and his Special Envoy to relaunch the political process in Western Sahara. On climate change, he said the United Nations must step up its leadership role and ensure that efforts are strengthened. Transforming modes of consumption and production, and implementing the Paris Agreement, are a moral and universal responsibility, he stated.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said the passing of former Secretary‑General Kofi Annan reminded the world of the unique value of the United Nations and the responsibility of its members in promoting peace, development and equal rights. Indeed, Sweden believes in international cooperation, shared responsibility and participation, as well as a rules‑based order where international treaties and agreements are respected. Condemning the disrespect for international humanitarian law, he called for diplomatic solutions to entrenched conflicts as well as the increased participation of women in peace processes to better build and sustain peace.
However, in too many instances the Security Council has failed to deliver on its promises to those it is meant to serve, he continued. In Syria and Yemen — two of the worst humanitarian disasters of our time — humanitarian access is continuously denied and international humanitarian law blatantly disregarded, he said. Meanwhile, the suffering of the stateless Rohingya population of Myanmar continues. Noting that Myanmar has systematically failed to condemn, investigate and prosecute perpetrators, he called on the international community to shoulder its responsibility and act to end its impunity. He went on to highlight the Middle East peace process, saying that it remains an “illusion” that is rapidly unfolding. Indeed, 70 years after the United Nations partition plan, fulfilling the promise of a two‑State solution seems very far away.
In the face of ongoing conflicts, humanitarian efforts must be reinforced and protected, he continued. For its part, Sweden increased its financial contributions to the United Nations‑led global humanitarian response system and improved the effectiveness of its common efforts through engagement in the Grand Bargain process. Citing the Horn of Africa as an encouraging example, he said positive dynamics in the region are a testament to what a difference courageous leaders and peoples can make. After years of escalation, high tension and mistrust on the Korean Peninsula, he also expressed hope that a political solution can emerge in that region, emphasizing the common goal of complete denuclearization, peace and reconciliation through diplomatic means.
MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada) said the world’s many challenges are systemic and cannot be solved by countries acting in isolation or bilaterally. All of them require the world to work together and the United Nations is the only place where they can do so. Emphasizing that Canada has been at the heart of the Organization since its inception, he said the institutions at the core of the rule‑based Organization were never meant to be static entities, impervious to change. Member States owe it to the generation that emerged from the Second World War to make multilateralism more efficient, fairer and more inclusive, he said, adding that the Secretary‑General’s reforms are essential in that regard.
The 2030 Agenda is a phenomenal achievement, but it takes the international community into uncharted territory for which new ways of doing things must be found, he said, calling for fresh, frank and inclusive discussions; a greater sense of urgency; and a new approach to risk. Quoting his Prime Minister, he said developing countries should not be punished for climate change, nor should they be deprived of the opportunities for clean growth. Greater economic integration and prosperity in Africa is key for a more secure world. He drew attention to Canada’s ethnic diversity, its welcoming of Syrian refugees and the challenge of reconciliation with its First Nations.
Stressing the need to break down barriers and connect people with opportunities, he said the international community can no longer afford to have discussions at the United Nations distinct from those at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He noted Canada’s increased contribution to United Nations peacekeeping operations and its spearheading role in the Elsie Initiative to double the number of women in peacekeeping operations. Citing the situations in Myanmar, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, he reiterated Canada’s commitment to human rights. He went on to discuss his nation’s candidacy for a non‑permanent seat on the Security Council in 2021‑2022, stating that, if elected, his country will harness the diversity of ideas and experience needed to fashion workable and forward‑looking approaches.
JEAN-CLAUDE FÉLIX DO REGO (Benin) said that with a world in the grip of crises, the United Nations must work together with great determination. Indeed, the international community must commit to work together to find suitable long‑term solutions to contemporary crises. International relations should be based on the increasingly close cooperation of States and the harmonious functioning of international organizations, focused on common interests and international security. In that regard, Benin welcomed the conclusion of the Global Compact for Migration and looks forward to its adoption in Marrakech. That achievement demonstrated the power of multilateralism and the international community’s ability to agree on issues that went beyond national sovereignty.
Turning to development, he said the acceleration of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda is a key priority. Improving governance is a “sine qua non” for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. With a strengthened legal arsenal to address economic crimes and terrorism, the fight against corruption is at the heart of his Government’s work, he said, noting that this is necessary to ensure that financial resources are really used toward their stated ends. At the same time, his Government is working to ensure better health care for its population and has begun a fight against a scourge of falsified medicines circulating in his country. Meanwhile, his country is also focused on developing its tourism sector and will develop flagship projects in that area to create the conditions for tourism to become a key driver of growth.
Peace and international security is a foreign policy priority, he said, calling peacekeeping one of the “most important tools of the United Nations”. Even though Benin has limited means, the country has been involved in several international initiatives to prevent crises and help keep peace. As such, it looks forward to reforms to the security pillar of the United Nations. He hailed the zero‑tolerance policy of the United Nations to combat sexual exploitation before expressing concern about dwindling resources in peacekeeping. “Doing more with less” is not suitable given the increasingly complex challenges facing peacekeeping operations today, he said.
MARIA HELENA LOPES DE JESUS PIRES (Timor‑Leste) noted that one of today’s main challenges is climate change and stressed the importance of active cooperation to combat it among small island developing States, which are particularly vulnerable. The international community must also focus its attention on global migration, which has intensified due to conflicts, wars, inequality and climate change.
Many fragile States remain isolated and subject to political and economic forces beyond their control, she added, blocking their efforts to attain sustainable development. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals will not be reached unless the international community combats fragility and assists in building peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Assessment of the 2030 Agenda, which will take place in 2019, should bring those concerns to the global agenda.
She welcomed United Nations reforms under the current leadership, but expressed concern over continuing conflicts around the world. Describing the war in Syria as a tragedy that has caused irreparable human damage and terrible suffering for people in the region, she urged the international community to end death and destruction in the country. She also encouraged the global community to redouble its efforts to find a just, peaceful and lasting solution for Palestine. On a more positive note, continued dialogue between parties on the Korean Peninsula is encouraging and will hopefully bring an end to proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region.
ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said the United Nations must play a greater leadership role in collective efforts to build resilient communities. Building resilience is the cornerstone of his country’s development strategy, he said, drawing attention to its recent peaceful elections — “a moment that made every Maldivian proud” — and the ongoing transfer of power. The accelerated pace of democratization in the Maldives is proceeding in tandem with social and economic growth, resulting in one of its region’s highest human development indicators. From one of the world’s poorest countries at independence in 1965 to an upper‑middle‑income country today, the Maldives is a success story by any measure.
Emphasizing the importance of partnerships, he said national development efforts by small island developing States such as the Maldives require capacity‑building, technology transfer and access to finance. The United Nations can do more to foster such support, he said, calling on the General Assembly to provide the Secretariat with a more balanced allocation of resources to help countries in special situations.
He described the United Nations as “the engine room of multilateralism”, with small nations, especially small island developing States, depending on multilateral norms for their existence. Countries big and small must return to the right side of international law. He called for an end to the unlawful occupation of Palestinian lands, a peaceful end to the war in Syria, and for the recommendations of the United Nations independent international fact‑finding mission on Myanmar to be implemented without delay. He also underscored the need for broader systemic reform in the Organization, including to the Security Council, stating: “The United Nations needs to be an institution where every Member State should feel welcomed.”
Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia had, a few days ago, levelled false allegations against Tehran. It was neither new nor surprising when the Minister said that Saudi Arabia supports the American strategy against Iran. What is amusing is that the Minister accused Iran of supporting terrorism, when everyone knows that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism in a blatant and widespread manner. He described Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading financier of terrorism, adding that suffering in Yemen is the product of Saudi machinations and manoeuvring. He wondered how Iran could have shipped ballistic missiles through a blockade to Yemen and voiced support for inter‑Yemeni dialogue under United Nations auspices. Emphasizing that Iran is a just and loyal neighbour, he said its door is open for dialogue to resolve problems for the benefit of the Muslim family.
Replying to the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, he reiterated Iran’s claim to the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb. Iran is willing to participate in negotiations with the United Arab Emirates to put aside any misunderstanding.
The representative of Armenia condemned Azerbaijan’s lopsided interpretations of international law and references to United Nations resolutions. The right of return for refugees requires a comprehensive approach. Azerbaijan is pursuing a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, raising tensions in the region and against the Nagorno-Karabakh people. The conflict erupted as the result of Azerbaijan’s denial of their right to self‑determination. Armenia supports peaceful negotiations towards a lasting and comprehensive solution and hopes Azerbaijan will commit in good faith to previously negotiated agreements.
The representative of Vanuatu expressed sympathy to Indonesia in the wake of the tsunami that recently affected the country. Regarding the issue of West Papua, he said that widespread human rights violations cannot be taken lightly. Indeed, the gross human rights violations being reported by international human rights organizations must be investigated thoroughly.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates rejected Iran’s occupation of the three islands in the Arabian Gulf, which she said are an integral part of her country’s territory. She refuted Iran’s claims to those islands and called for questions on the matter to be brought before the International Court of Justice. She condemned Iran for meddling in the domestic affairs of countries in the region, highlighting their provision of arms to the Houthis in the Yemeni conflict, a blatant violation of Council resolutions 2216 (2015) and 2231 (2015).
The representative of Azerbaijan emphasized that the Nagorno‑Karabakh region remains an integral part of Azerbaijan and accused Armenia of resorting to violence and terrorism. Armenia continues to occupy the Nagorno‑Karabakh region against United Nations resolutions and international law. Armenia’s policies are discriminatory based on ethnic grounds. Furthermore, the actions that Armenia described as an exercise of self‑determination have been qualified by the Security Council as the unlawful use of force. The international community has reaffirmed the sovereignty of the recognized borders of Azerbaijan. Armenia has obstructed the conflict settlement process, while escalating the situation on the ground.
The representative of Indonesia, responding to his counterpart from Vanuatu, said that country is directly challenging internationally agreed principles of friendly relations between States, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The status of Papua and West Papua as a part of Indonesia is final, irreversible and permanent. If the representatives of Vanuatu wish to keep bringing up the issue, Indonesia suggests that they study international law, and if their country is concerned about human rights, it should start at home, he said.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, responding to her counterpart from Iran, echoed the remarks of the United Arab Emirates, adding that her country is accustomed to hearing mendacious allegations from a regime that always used lies to explain its failures. That Iranian missiles are being fired at Saudi towns is undeniable, she said, adding that Riyadh is committed to a peaceful settlement in Yemen. Iran should act responsibly, not feed extremism or support terrorist groups, she said.
The representative of Syria said false allegations made by Canada’s speaker are made in the framework of that country’s engagement with terrorist groups in Syria, notably the White Helmets, which are affiliated with the Nusrah Front. To promote the White Helmets is to promote terrorism and Al-Qaida, he said.
The representative of Iran, taking the floor a second time, said the representatives of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are negligent of the fact that repeating falsehoods, year after year, cannot alter the truth in the age of digital communications. The only way to restore security and tranquillity in West Asia is through dialogue, he said, adding that Tehran’s policy is based on greater convergence, mutual respect and good-neighbourliness.
MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCÉS (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said this year’s general debate underscored the ongoing relevance of the Assembly and of the United Nations as a whole. It also set the tone for the Assembly’s work for the coming year. Everyone can honestly say that the past six days of Member States’ interventions wrapped up on a high note, with the satisfaction of a job well done.
Summarizing the general debate, she spotlighted the emphasis given to the role of the Organization and the importance of multilateralism. There was almost unanimous agreement, along with repeated appeals for strengthened multilateralism, on the irreplaceability of the United Nations. She noted the adoption of political declarations on eradicating tuberculosis and combatting non‑communicable diseases, as well as the signature by seven countries and the ratification by four of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Leaders also shared progress being made in their countries as well as challenges being faced, in sustainable development, peacebuilding and respect for human rights.
All the statements, put together, add up to a snapshot of the state of the world today and of the role that befalls the United Nations in its aims towards multilateralism, she said, thanking the 121 Heads of State and Government, the nine Vice‑Presidents and Deputy Prime Ministers, and the other Ministers and representatives who participated. It was heartening to see many countries defend multilateralism, she said, adding that sustainable development and the threat of climate change were the topics most often mentioned.
She also observed that several leaders noted 2018 as the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, underscored the importance of gender equality, voiced support for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and called for greater investment in conflict prevention. “We need to make a difference,” she stressed, “and the time to do that is now.”