Recalling Detrimental Impact of Former Power Structures, Speakers Highlight National Contributions to New Global Alliances Promoting Common Good
Undaunted by the global forces shaping their societies and challenging their very existence, the leaders of small countries — which comprise about half of the United Nations membership — took centre stage in the General Assembly today, reminding the world of their service to bygone power structures and outlining visions for progressive cooperation that favours their ingenuity and mettle.
In pre-recorded remarks fed into a socially distanced Assembly Hall, many recounted their national contributions to new global alliances that promote the common good, with climate action at the top of the list.
Denouncing a “Me First” attitude, Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, said his small country is tackling climate change head-on. It will update its nationally determined contribution ahead of the twenty-sixth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow. While many nations, some 40 years ago, preached human rights yet allowed Khmer Rouge executioners to occupy Cambodia’s United Nations seat, he said the threat of a new cold war is a huge concern. Cambodia was caught in the first cold war, for which it paid a high price.
Along similar lines, Andorra’s Head of Government, Xavier Espot Zamora, said now is the right moment to build a greener world. Andorra approved the Paris Agreement on climate change without hesitation, later passing a law on energy transition that reflects its contribution to that accord. He urged countries to approach sustainability in a transversal manner as a main line of political action. Globally, it must be addressed through cooperation. “The world must be sustainable — or it will cease to be,” he said, advocating solidarity as a common interest.
Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, said Pacific small island developing States will be compromised if emissions continue to cause more than 3°C of global warming. With eroded coastlines and acidifying oceans, they are dealing with tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. He called for a legally binding biodiversity instrument that recognizes the unique vulnerabilities of small islands to the impact of climate change. “We need a balance of power among United Nations members,” he said. The rule of law — and the vital protection it offers to the weak and small — must be respected.
“The climate emergency is a call for peace,” Belgium’s Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmes, added. In a multilateral approach, countries contribute in different ways and at different levels. If taken, it allows all countries — large or small — to have a voice. “We bring our added value to the table,” she said.
Describing the worst environmental disaster ever faced by his nation, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius, said that on 25 July, MV Wakashio ran aground on the pristine reefs at Pointe d’Esny, breaking open 800 tons of fuel oil that leaked into surrounding waters. On 16 August, the ship split in two, creating a marine catastrophe. He called for a review of the rules governing bunkers and tankers.
To the broader point of revamping outdated policies, he pressed the Assembly to ensure that all remnants of colonialism are dismantled in the Chagos Archipelago, recalling that resolution 73/295 required the United Kingdom to end its administration there by 22 November 2019. “I need not recall the horrendous conditions in which these innocent persons were made to leave their homes,” he asserted.
Allen Michael Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, said that the many challenges faced by small island developing States — including debt, restrictive trading rules and climate change — reflect a broader failure by international institutions to keep pace with those countries’ practical realities. “We must acknowledge that the global economic architecture, created post World War II, never considered small island developing States,” he said, adding that despite empathy and understanding among technocrats at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank, “they remain constrained by their own inflexible governance structures”.
In the wake of its 2019 revolution, Sudan has returned to the international fold after 30 years outside it, said its Prime Minister, Abdalla Adam Hamdok, with the Government focused on restoring peace and the economy. The pandemic, however, is complicating outstanding challenges, not least a long-neglected health sector. Sudan needs the support of the international community to improve its economic situation, including debt forgiveness, he said, calling as well for the country to be removed from the list of States sponsoring terrorism.
Walid Al-Moualem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, said that every day, the world is straying further from the principles and values underpinning the United Nations because some Governments have illegally imposed their own agendas on other nations and used the Organization to further their ambitions. Even as the pandemic rages, new or unilateral coercive measures persist, he said, calling on all affected nations to close ranks against those States which violate international law.
Vladimir Makei, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, addressed the post-election situation in his country, stating that external actors are attempting to destabilize the situation and bring chaos. Interference and sanctions will help no one, he said, adding that civilized dialogue and constitutional reform will guide the country into the future. He added that the United Nations and the Security Council must move with the times by ending wars, applying international law and helping nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan, said that COVID-19 has accelerated and intensified a global trend towards nationalism, xenophobia and the rejection of free trade and global economic integration. The path to a post-pandemic “new normal” will not be linear and going forward; all countries will need to make trade-offs based on their unique national circumstances. International cooperation will be key, he said, calling for “vaccine multilateralism” to ensure universal and equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine.
Also speaking were Heads of State and Government, as well as Ministers, of India, United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Fiji, Malaysia, Norway, Solomon Islands, Jamaica, Lesotho, Sweden, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Ireland, Morocco, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Vanuatu, Cabo Verde, Madagascar, Senegal, Liechtenstein and Austria.
The representatives of Armenia and Indonesia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday, 29 September at 9 a.m. to continue its General Debate.
NARENDRA MODI, Prime Minister of India, said the international community must ask itself if the character of the Organization, constituted in the circumstances prevailing in 1945, is relevant today. Notwithstanding its several stellar achievements, he noted, the world has witnessed several wars, including civil wars, as well as terrorist attacks and the refugee crisis. Where is the United Nations in the joint fight against the pandemic? Calling for reform in the Organization’s responses, processes and its very character, he said the people of India have been waiting a long time for United Nations reform. Expressing concern as to whether the reform process will ever reach its logical conclusion, he demanded: “How long will India be kept out of the decision-making structures of the United Nations?”
Pointing out that his country is the world’s largest democracy, with more than 18 per cent of its population, he said the ideals upon which the United Nations was founded have much in common with India’s own fundamental philosophy. Treating the whole world as one family is part of India’s culture, character and thinking, he added, noting the participation of Indian soldiers in about 50 United Nations peacekeeping missions. During the current raging pandemic, he continued, India’s pharmaceutical industry has sent essential medicines to more than 150 countries, and its vaccine production and delivery capacity will help all humanity. It will also help all countries enhance their cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of the vaccines, he assured delegates.
He went on to state that India will fulfil its responsibility as a non-permanent member of the Security Council starting in January 2021 and will not hesitate to raise its voice against terrorism, the smuggling of illegal weapons and drugs, as well as money-laundering. The lessons of India’s developmental journey, marked by ups and downs, will strengthen the path to global welfare, he affirmed. India has brought more than 400 million people into the formal financial sector and today, is one of the leaders in digital transactions. He went on to cite a programme to provide piped drinking water to 150 million rural households and a huge project to connect 600,000 villages with broadband optical fibre. A self-reliant India will also be a force multiplier for the global economy, he stressed.
PRAVIND KUMAR JUGNAUTH, Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity of Mauritius, detailed his Government’s drastic measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, among them sanitary confinement and a package of public health initiatives. Today, there are only a few imported cases that are being monitored, he said. Thanking the World Health Organization (WHO) for its timely advice, he said the pandemic has eroded hard-won development gains in the services, travel, tourism and hospitality sectors. He went on to call for the fair distribution of a vaccine, once developed, at a price affordable to all. Hardly had Mauritius gained control over COVID-19, he continued, when the ship MV Wakashio ran aground on the pristine reefs at Pointe d’Esny on 25 July, after which 800 tons of fuel oil leaked into lagoons and surrounding areas. On 16 August, the ship split in two, creating the worst environmental disaster Mauritius has ever faced.
Recalling the naval incident off the coast of Sri Lanka weeks later, he underscored the need for a robust regional disaster prevention and management system, and a review of the rules governing bunkers and tankers. Given the position of Mauritius in a busy sea lane between the West and Far East, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) should address these matters, he urged. More broadly, he noted that the pandemic has led to a focus on national needs at the expense of — and in competition with — those of the wider world, pointing out that borders have been closed and people are voicing their frustrations. “We, as leaders, need to be attentive to these developments,” he said, stressing the need to ensure that the world economy does not sink into depression, that the Sustainable Development Goals are on track, and that Paris Agreement commitments are upheld. In drafting a legally binding instrument on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, he said, coastal States should enjoy full rights over marine organisms in the extended continental shelf, whether they are found on the seabed or above.
He went on to argue in favour of permanent and non-permanent seats for Africa on the Security Council, pointing out specifically that the decolonization of Mauritius remains incomplete, despite the 2019 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice determining that the Chagos Archipelago is an integral part of its territory, and Assembly resolution 73/295, which required the United Kingdom to end its administration there by 22 November 2019. He urged the Assembly to ensure that all remnants of colonialism are dismantled and to help Mauritius resettle the forcibly displaced Chagos inhabitants. “I need not recall the horrendous conditions in which these innocent persons were made to leave their homes” — itself a crime compounded now by the systematic manner in which they are being prevented from returning, he said. Mauritius also looks forward to resolving the dispute over Tromelin island, he added, invoking the spirit of friendship that characterizes relations between his country and France.
XAVIER ESPOT ZAMORA, Head of Government of Andorra, expressed support for the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire and the Organization’s efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing that the response must underpin a more sustainable and inclusive type of development that leaves nobody behind. While the pandemic has had negative effects on development gains, it must serve as an incentive to push for a paradigm change, he said. “The Government of Andorra is convinced that now is the right moment to build a better and greener world, both at a national level, by approaching sustainability in a transversal manner and as a main line of political action, and at an international level within the area of cooperation; because the world must be sustainable or it will cease to be.”
He went on to stress that sustained growth without the active participation of women will not be possible, urging Member States to prevent the pandemic disorder from being used to roll back women’s rights and to move forward with implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Children must also be protected in all governmental actions when rebuilding after COVID-19, primarily in the area of education, he said. Turning to climate change, he recalled that Andorra approved the Paris Agreement on climate change without hesitation and passed a law on Energy Transition and the Fight against Climate Change, which reflects its contribution to that Agreement. In addition, Andorra has headed the Pro Tempore Secretariat of the Ibero-American Summit for two years under the motto “Innovation for Sustainable Development — Objective 2030”, he noted. The joint declaration adopted by the Environment Ministers at the Environment Conference on 16 September 2020 will allow States to build an environmental agenda among the 22 member States of the Ibero-American Conference, he added.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced giant steps in digitalization, with teleworking and distance learning becoming the norm and obliging millions to become technology-literate, he noted. It has also exposed cracks in systems like elder care, and deepening inequalities in households that cannot access technologies required for the shift currently under way. However, values such as solidarity, empathy and recognition of health-care professionals, as well as a sense of civility and common interests, are also flourishing, he noted. Calling upon the international community to appeal to the spirit and vision of the United Nations founders, he stressed that Member States have no time to lose. They must learn more about the Organization’s procedures and work with efficiency experts in order to respond to the Charter of the United Nations and in pursuit of peace and security, human rights and development, he said.
BORIS JOHNSON, Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service of the United Kingdom, said each Member State has waged its individual war against the virus and while putting one’s nation first is understandable, the international community is now tattered. Now is the time for humanity to reach across borders and repair the ugly rifts that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, he said, adding that there is a moral imperative for humankind to pursue joint efforts. As a former COVID-19 patient, he emphasized that WHO, despite its need for reform, remains the one body that can marshal humanity against the legion of diseases.
Humankind has endured eight outbreaks of a lethal virus over the past two decades, he noted, recalling that, in 2015, Bill Gates sounded alarm bells about the risk of a pandemic, but his pleas went unheeded. Citing efforts being conducted around the world on 100 potential vaccines, he warned against that quest becoming a contest for narrow national advantage. The health of every country depends on the whole world having access to a safe and effective vaccine, he stressed, warning against efforts to cut corners in ensuring vaccine safety.
He went on to call for greater efforts to avoid future crises, saying the United Kingdom will use its upcoming presidency of the Group of 7 (G-7) to create a new global approach to protecting against future pandemics. The initiative will focus on stopping new diseases before they start, in part by promoting research to prevent pathogens that can jump from animals to humans. He also pointed to the relevance of improving the manufacturing capacity for treatments and vaccines and of establishing a global pandemic early warning system. If future defences against a pandemic are breached, protocols must be in place to respond to emerging crises in a united way, he said. To facilitate access to vital equipment, he called on countries to be prepared to lift export controls whenever possible. The United Kingdom is determined to work with the United Nations to heal the divisions of the world, he assured.
SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, said the COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the need for collective action because nobody is secure unless everyone is secure. Noting that lockdown measures implemented to fight the pandemic are taking a heavy toll on global economies, she said economic growth that characterized Bangladesh in the past few years is being erased. The Government is implementing stimulus packages to minimize the pandemic’s impact on businesses and national productivity and is expanding social services, she said, adding that it identified food security as a priority in response efforts. All measures are being taken to ensure Bangladeshis have access to adequate nutrition, she emphasized.
Noting that pandemic response and sustainable development go hand in hand, she said it is imperative to treat a vaccine as a global public good. Bangladesh continues efforts to transform itself into a middle-income country, but needs increased assistance to make the jump from least-developed to middle-income status, she said. The pandemic is not only affecting health and business sectors, it is also exacerbating pre-existing vulnerabilities, such as climate change, she said, pointing out that her country is reeling from a devastating cyclone and flood cycle. However, Bangladesh will advocate for a sustainable and climate-resilient path out of global crises.
She went on to state that the principle of “friendship to all and malice to none” underpins her Government’s foreign policy, warning the Assembly of rising hate speech, xenophobia and intolerance as a result of the pandemic. As part of its efforts to promote global stability, Bangladesh remains one of the largest contributors of troops to peacekeeping operations and continues to advocate for the women, peace and security agenda, she said. Bangladesh knows only too well the horrors of genocide and is providing temporary shelter to more than 1.1 million displaced Rohingya, she said, calling upon the international community to play a more effective role in addressing the crisis in neighbouring Myanmar.
JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister and Minister for iTaukei Affairs, Sugar Industry, and Foreign Affairs of Fiji, noted his country’s fiftieth birthday and the Organization’s seventy-fifth anniversary, adding, however, that any celebration feels hollow against COVID-19’s global spread and the worsening climate emergency. “If there was ever a perfect storm of these dual crises, Fiji has seen it,” he said, citing the April landfall of category 4 Cyclone Harold in the midst of the country’s campaign to contain the virus. Fiji evacuated entire communities and saved lives without allowing a single new case, he recalled, describing the period as a turning point. “We knew that if we could overcome the virus in the harshest of conditions, it could be defeated.”
Thanks to rigorous containment efforts, fast and early testing, strict quarantining and a nationwide curfew, the Fijian public has now been free of the coronavirus for more than 150 days, he said, adding, however, that the country has not been spared economic devastation, with the tourism sector and garment industry coming to an overnight halt. “Climate change and the coronavirus may be very different beasts,” but the inequities they exposed are all too familiar for small developing States, he continued, noting that, once again, the worst impacts have fallen on those least equipped to bear them. While the purpose of the United Nations is timeless, the multilateral system it launched served the different needs of a different age. If global climate action mirrors the incoherent global response to this pandemic, “we will not prevent a sixth mass extinction event”, he warned. Billions or even trillions of dollars thrown at scientists’ feet decades on from now will not produce a silver bullet that saves the planet from unmitigated climate impacts.
Fiji has worked closely with the United Nations and development partners, he said, outlining its plan to “Recover better. Recover bluer. Recover greener. And recover together.” The Government has spent tens of millions of dollars in direct assistance to those left unemployed or underemployed, he noted, pointing to free education and health-care services, as well as social protections for more than 100,000 of its most vulnerable citizens. No Fijian has been cut off from water because they cannot afford their bills and 800 communities are powered by solar home systems, he said, pointing out that developing countries have asked for a mere 10 per cent of the historic stimulus packages the richest nations have deployed for themselves. “Twenty-twenty was meant to be the year we took back our planet; a super-year for nature, for the oceans, for the climate, for biodiversity, for food security,” he recalled, adding that the pandemic has short-changed those global commitments. The campaign for collective action must press ahead, he stressed, “in parliaments, in board rooms, in stock exchanges and in the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens everywhere in the world”, and that work begins with the United Nations.
MUHYIDDIN MOHD YASSIN, Prime Minister of Malaysia, noted that the COVD-19 pandemic levelled the playing field for all nations and a vaccine must promote international collaboration rather than nationalist competition. Warning that terrorist groups could take advantage of such uncertain times, he called for transparent communication, networking and cooperation on intelligence at the national and international levels to counter terrorism during the pandemic. As for the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, he said that his Government has enacted mitigating strategies to address the socioeconomic impacts of the virus.
He went on to recall that, at the outset of the crisis, differences and indecision in the Security Council prevented the body from taking immediate action. Emphasizing the need for a Council that better reflects the Organization’s current membership, he added that there is nothing democratic about the veto-wielding powers of the five permanent members. Describing the situation in Palestine as a glaring failure for the United Nations, he expressed support for efforts by the Middle East Quartet (United Nations, United States, European Union, Russian Federation) to find a mutually agreeable path for the parties to re-engage towards a negotiated, peaceful settlement. Turning to the plight of the Rohingya and the effects of the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, he said it has had a huge impact on Malaysia, which hosts the largest number of Rohingya refugees in South-East Asia.
As a developing country, he continued, the cost of managing and providing protection for 180,00 registered refugees has strained Malaysia’s limited resources. Calling upon States parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol to shoulder a proportionate amount of the burden, he said that, in addition to addressing the influx of refugees, the international community must play a more meaningful role in ending atrocities in Rakhine. On the climate crisis, he reported that his country’s air quality readings have improved from 28 per cent to 57 per cent since Malaysia implemented the Movement Control Order. While the country remains committed to protecting the environment, its palm oil production industry is heavily regulated and not a threat to its rainforests, as some critics argue. In closing, he acknowledged that, while multilateralism has become less persuasive in recent times, the United Nations must prevail and become a capable institution that hears and collectively addresses the concerns of its members.
SAMDECH AKKA MOHA SENA PADEI TECHO HUN SEN, Prime Minister of Cambodia, called attention to the turmoil created by the convergence of COVID-19, climate change, non-State terrorism and a potential new cold war. Post-1945 stability has been shaken, with its underlying values and the core principles of international law being openly flouted, he noted, adding that the global arms‑control system is being degraded by an alarming shift towards war as a means of maintaining supremacy. States unilaterally renege on global commitments and level violent blows against international institutions, he said, emphasizing that the threat of a new cold war is a significant concern for Cambodia — a small country caught in the first cold war, for which it paid a high price.
“Now more than ever, we must renounce the inward-looking ‘me first’ attitude”, a mindset that negates universal human values, he stressed. Expressing concern over the compounding effects of COVID-19 on efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda, he suggested rethinking the feasibility of meeting the related targets. Cambodia, a small country with limited resources, nonetheless strives to address climate challenges and will update its nationally determined contribution ahead of the twenty-sixth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, he said, also calling attention to the 800 Cambodians serving as peacekeepers. The United Nations should provide them with adequate resources and training, he added.
Following Cambodia’s liberation from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, under which more than 2 million people perished, exhausted survivors rebuilt the nation from scratch. Ironically, those people were punished again when a majority of countries allowed Khmer Rouge executioners to occupy Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations, he said, emphasizing that Governments preaching about human rights were the same ones that, at the time, deprived survivors of access to food, health care, education, housing, development and even peace for 12 long years. History again repeats itself with the European Union’s withdrawal of the “Everything But Arms” trade initiative, he said. “Cambodia is strongly determined, as it did 40 years ago, to defend what it believes is the rightful path, that is to defend our sovereignty and to protect our so hard-won peace,” he stressed. Cautioning that major challenges lie ahead, he said some countries are shirking their responsibilities. Ultimately, it is up to the most powerful country to stop threatening world peace, and for the super and middle Powers to unite in ensuring a new world order based on respect for sovereignty and peaceful coexistence, he added.
ERNA SOLBERG, Prime Minster of Norway, said that, as one of the five incoming Security Council members, her country has strengthened bilateral bonds with Member States and plans to focus on conflict prevention and resolution; building the women, peace and security agenda and promoting women’s participation in peace processes; protection of civilians, including children, based on international humanitarian law; and bringing climate-related security threats into the discussion. Noting the current global trend towards more authoritarianism and populism, she said COVID-19 is amplifying it. “The pandemic is an exam in practical governance for all States,” she emphasized. “The report card will be open for the world to see.”
Noting with sadness the increase in violence against women and girls as a result of ongoing lockdowns, she said women bear the brunt of the pandemic in many societies. Women must have access to sexual and reproductive health services and health care, as well as to financial incentives for response and recovery. Warning that the pandemic may reverse years of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals — increasing extreme poverty, unemployment and reducing access to education — she said financing is required to ensure sustained progress. The Addis Agenda highlights the importance of mobilizing domestic resources in order to provide basic public goods and services, yet those areas remain underfunded she noted, calling for an end to the draining of public resources, corruption, tax evasion and financial crime.
Turning to the planet’s health, she said the international community has a common obligation to invest in resilience, especially in the parts of the world most adversely affected by climate change. Calling upon all States to enhance their ambitions under the Paris Agreement, she said Norway is speeding up the green shift in its economy. Stressing that oceans are vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, she said a sustainable ocean economy is beneficial to health and society, as well as to the global economy and environment. In fact, every dollar invested in ocean actions yields at least five dollars in return, she said. Reporting that she convened the High-Level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy, together with the President of Palau, she said the Panel will present ways forward to better protect oceans in December.
MANASSEH SOGAVARE, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, noted that, while COVID-19 has resulted in more than 30 million confirmed cases and over 900,000 deaths, the virus remains a novelty to scientific and medical professionals, with unknown or poorly understood long-term health repercussions. While Solomon Islands, alongside nine other Pacific small islands developing States, remains COVID-19 free, the Government is not complacent, he emphasized, noting that it quickly established a COVID-19 oversight committee comprising all relevant Government agencies and swiftly mobilized resources to address health‑care gaps and secure border entry points. It created a stimulus package to cushion the negative economic impact and kept the public informed through talk‑back shows with the oversight committee, he reported.
He went on to state that his country continues to battle the incremental effects of climate change on livelihoods, security and well-being. Changing weather patterns have caused abnormal weather events of epic proportions while warming global temperatures are melting the ice caps and causing sea levels to rise, he said. Reaffirming his Government’s commitment to reducing the country’s carbon footprint and doubling its nationally determined contributions through the Tina Hydropower project, he called for more action by those with greater means of implementation to reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions. Furthermore, he said, as a large ocean State with an area of 1.5 million square kilometres, the conservation and preservation of the ocean and its resources remains a priority for Solomon Islands, condemning illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing within its maritime jurisdiction.
As a post-conflict country, he continued, Solomon Islands is committed to unity within diversity and has contributed 12 police officers to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) in Sudan. Turning to his country’s forthcoming graduation from the least developed countries category, he pointed out that COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing challenges and made the pathway towards sustainable graduation and smooth transition extremely difficult. Encouraging the Committee on Development Policy to ensure that its next report paints the true picture of the Solomon Islands development path, he pointed to the increase in the number of children enrolled in the formal education system and the establishment of the National Financing Framework for Development, which underpins financing for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
ANDREW HOLNESS, Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Economic Growth and Job Creation of Jamaica, stated that, before the onset of the pandemic, his country had recorded significant economic progress, including in by reducing high levels of public debt and poverty. That progress allowed Jamaica to mount a robust response to the pandemic. However, the economy now faces challenges arising from reduced revenues, increased health and social spending and climate change mitigation, he said, emphasizing that developing countries must rebalance their economies in order to recover and become more resilient.
Small Caribbean States, which are designated as middle-income countries, still depend on one or just a few industries, and as such, are deeply affected by the pandemic, he pointed out. They urgently need increased access to concessional and non-concessional financing, given their limited fiscal space, reduced availability of public resources for investment and the struggle to attract private investment. One area to target for increased financing is the digital divide, especially because pandemic-related lockdowns have pushed so much of life online, he said. As co-convener of the High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond, Jamaica is committed to developing concrete solutions to enable countries to respond and recover from the pandemic, he affirmed.
Pointing out that women and girls continue to face discrimination and remain excluded from economic activities and decision-making mechanisms, he said Jamaica’s pandemic response efforts include a gender perspective. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequality, he added, identifying health disparities as a major concern. Vulnerable populations face additional obstacles as they seek medical care. He closed by calling for equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics to treat COVID-19.
TUILAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Samoa, expressed his country’s commitment to multilateralism, saying the United Nations represents “the last bastion” against global pandemics and economic crises, climate change and systemic discrimination. With the onset of COVID-19, “the uncertainties we are facing have tested the mettle of our nations and Governments like never before”, he said, noting that, while Samoa remains free of the virus, its people have not been spared serious life changes arising from the December 2019 measles outbreak. Describing global solidarity as “our best armour”, he said the future of Pacific small island developing States will be compromised if emissions continue to cause more than 3°C of global warming.
Facing cyclones, coastlines that have been whittled away and oceans yielding to “gnawing” acidification, he continued, those countries are also dealing with tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, deadly bush fires, heat waves and drought. He went on to condemn terrorism “unreservedly”, saying that, as a party to disarmament and non-proliferation treaties, Samoa calls for a world without weapons of mass destruction. The country’s vision for improved life mirrors that of the 2030 Agenda, with people’s socioeconomic well-being at the core of all development initiatives, he assured. The rule of law and the vital protection it offers — especially to the weak and small — must be respected, he said, also committing to advance gender equality.
Going forward, he said, the reforms carried out reassure Samoa that the United Nations can respond effectively to the needs of its diverse membership and he looked forward to those promising an improved presence in the Pacific region, with the establishment of a multi-country office for the northern Pacific States. He expressed his expectation of enhanced United Nations engagement through the reinvigorated resident coordinator system and more integrated delivery on the ground. He also called for increased membership of the Security Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories. As both a large ocean State and a small island developing State, Samoa needs a United Nations that will produce a legally binding Instrument on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction that will continue to recognize the unique vulnerabilities of small islands to the impact of climate change, he stressed.
MOEKETSI MAJORO, Prime Minister of Lesotho, said the United Nations remains the symbol of humankind’s fervent desire for eternal survival, emphasizing that, as crises become more global, multilateralism and solidarity are more important than ever. Pointing to the ongoing revolution in information systems and their integration into daily lives, he warned that those without access to new technologies will be relegated to extreme poverty. He called upon the United Nations to work towards bringing poor countries into the digital age. The COVID‑19 pandemic is further exacerbating inequalities, he stated, noting the extreme challenges of accessing health services in conflict zones. Lesotho endorses the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, he said, urging greater action to prevent future pandemics.
Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that, while considerable progress has been made in their implementation, the world is not on track to achieve the targets by 2030. Pointing to the recent global rise in the number of people suffering from hunger, he said least developed and landlocked countries bear the brunt of the socioeconomic burden of the pandemic. He went on to say the global crisis has weakened Lesotho’s health system, adding that recovery requires additional support from international financial institutions. He went on to lament the scaling back of international discussions on the rights of women as a result of the pandemic and noted that Lesotho is working to increase the number of women in leadership positions.
While the United Nations is the only universal institution that can safeguard world peace, the Organization has a mixed record of success in peacekeeping operations, he noted. To improve such operations, he called for secure financing, as well as a greater focus on peacemaking and preventive diplomacy. The composition of the Security Council, and the underrepresentation of African States, further reduces the effectiveness of peace and security initiatives, he said. On conflict in Africa, he said the continent’s determination to address that challenge through the African Union must not be misconstrued as absolving the United Nations of its responsibility for peace and security were Africa is concerned.
STEFAN LÖFVEN, Prime Minister of Sweden, noted that his country and Qatar co-chaired negotiations on the “Declaration on the commemoration of the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations”, in the spirit of dearly needed solidarity. The international community now has the opportunity to build better, more resilient societies, and jointly address shared challenges, including the pandemic, climate crisis, widening inequalities and threats to international peace. Emphasizing the importance of United Nations leadership and of WHO in the global COVID-19 response, he said Sweden has contributed more than $170 million to the global response.
Turning to climate change, he said the world must reshape societies and lower emissions. Sweden is striving to be the first fossil-free welfare nation and continues to work with the industrial sector to achieve net-zero emissions, he reported, calling for more ambitious nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement. On gender, he noted that the pandemic is exacerbating existing discrimination and inequality, as well as the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, adding that it is also having a disproportionate impact on women’s and girls’ access to essential health services. Sweden is ready to take a leading role in UN-Women’s “Global Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights”, he said, going on to call for a sustainable transition in the global labour market and free, fair and sustainable trade, with the World Trade Organization (WTO) playing a central role.
While the pandemic is a threat to international peace and security, the fight against impunity for international crimes remains essential, he said, emphasizing in that context that the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, and aggression in eastern Ukraine, constitute serious breaches of international law, challenge global security and cause human suffering. Noting that Sweden will assume the role of Chair-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), he said its main priority will be conflict resolution, building on the OSCE comprehensive concept of security, with democracy and human rights at its core. Expressing concern that the nuclear threat is as present as ever while milestone treaties are abandoned or at risk, he called upon the United States and the Russian Federation to agree on an extension of the New Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, and for China to join those discussions.
RALPH E. GONSALVES, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Public Service, National Security, Legal Affairs and Grenadines Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, warned that the future humankind wants and deserves is in grave danger. Climate change and a lopsided multilateral system bring to the fore the need to ensure the United Nations is fit for purpose and can stand for all States, he said, emphasizing that the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises cannot be addressed through nationalism and isolation.
Without an enforceable, international rules-based compact among all countries and major pharmaceutical companies, he continued, pandemic responses and vaccines may be unattainable for small and poor States. Noting that the old international order is disappearing, yet a new one is yet to emerge, he said powerful countries and ruling classes must acknowledge that global challenges cannot be solved in isolation and that all States must foster an environment of social solidarity. It is that spirit of solidarity that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) seeks to foster, he said, calling upon powerful nations to roll back unilateral actions such as sanctions and the weaponizing of trade.
Despite limitations imposed by history and geography, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is advancing a people-centred development agenda, he said. However, the pandemic threatens to reverse development gains across the global South, particularly in small island developing States that lack access to predictable and reliable financing through concessional loans. He went on to condemn the embargo imposed on Cuba and the unilateral sanctions aimed at forcing regime change in Venezuela, demanding that those who claim to act in the name of human rights stop depriving millions of their right to dignity and development. He closed by lamenting the lack of progress in addressing racial and social injustices, expressing hope that the International Decade for People of African Descent will be one of progress in that regard.
THONGLOUN SISOULITH, Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, recalled the achievements of multilateral cooperation under the flag of the United Nations, noting that many such joint efforts were aimed at helping vulnerable countries, particularly least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States. Even so, there is need to adapt, strengthen and reform the Organization so it can deliver on its mandates to fit the current environment, particularly by enhancing cooperation for development. Aside from its human impact, the COVID-19 crisis poses a huge threat to socioeconomic development in many countries, leading the world economy into recession, he said, noting that efforts to eradicate poverty have been severely impacted.
He said that his Government adopted very strict preventative measures to contain the virus and the countries has only 23 confirmed infections, with zero fatalities. Still, universal access to a vaccine is essential, he emphasized, expressing support for WHO’s assistance to States facing difficulties. As for the post COVID-19 economic recovery, the international community must collectively address obstacles to international trade, funding and access to technology while building mutual trust and cooperation, he stressed. Turning to climate change, he called upon the international community to provide financial support and technological know-how to help the least developed countries better respond to natural disasters.
Given the negative impact the pandemic will have on achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, developed countries and other development partners must honour their official development assistance commitments to vulnerable countries. He added that his Government has integrated the Goals and their targets into its eighth five-year National Socioeconomic Development Plan for 2016-2020 and will continue to further streamline the Sustainable Development Goals into plans moving forward. In general, the country has made significant progress on the 2030 Agenda, including by reducing poverty from 46 per cent to 18 per cent, he noted. In the regional cooperation context, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic continues to support the commitment and efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the promotion of peace, stability and security of the region, he emphasized.
SOPHIE WILMES, Prime Minister, in charge of Beliris and Federal Cultural Institutions of Belgium, highlighted trust, responsibility and commitment as the pillars upon which multilateral cooperation is built. However, COVID-19 has ripped apart families, unfolded to gargantuan economic effect and sparked questions about the future. Countries must open their eyes to the vulnerabilities of social models, she said, noting that there has been a disproportionate impact on those already suffering — women, girls, older persons and people with disabilities among them. Noting that palpable geopolitical tensions are jeopardizing delicate balances, she expressed grave concern over the situation in the Persian Gulf. The Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action is crucial for guaranteeing the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, she emphasized.
In the wider Middle East, peace will remain elusive without a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question, she said. Israel’s plans to lend official status to occupied Palestinian lands must be abandoned, she stressed, advocating instead a viable two-State solution based on international law and United Nations resolutions. She also expressed grave concern over security conditions in the Sahel, following the coup in Mali. As countries weather the health, security and humanitarian impacts of climate change, drought and abnormal weather patterns are driving millions from their homes in Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, she pointed out. “The climate emergency is a call for peace,” she said, underlining that none of these problems can be tackled in isolation.
“Multilateralism does not function inherently,” she continued. Rather, there is a common desire to make it function.” It becomes more relevant when it is called into question and must be used as means to tackle problems. “We contribute in different ways and at different levels,” she said. A multilateral approach allows countries to exceed their relative weight. “If taken, all countries — small or large — have a voice. We bring our added value to the table.” While acknowledging that the 15 Security Council members are not always able to resolve conflict, she outlined Belgium’s contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Indeed, Belgium will work to mobilize the resources needed for action, as they are a crucial component of multilateralism, she said. “Let’s roll up our sleeves and draw inspiration from previous achievements.”
MICHEÁL MARTIN, Taoiseach of Ireland, said the pandemic, even as it took its toll on the weakest, revealed the best of humanity, from the heroic efforts of front-line workers to the remarkable solidarity and civic responsibility of people around the world through many months of restrictions and disruptions. Ireland’s candidature for a seat on the Security Council is underpinned by an unwavering commitment to working together, he said, adding that since his country last served on the Council in 2001 and 2002, the number of issues on its agenda has tripled. “We are under no illusions,” he emphasized, noting the deep divisions on the Council. However, these divisions do not mean that the Council can step back from its responsibilities, he stressed, adding that his country will focus on building peace, strengthening prevention and ensuring accountability.
Recalling Ireland’s long-standing record of service in peacekeeping operations and its experience of conflict, he said conflict resolution is a long and complex task; it is rarely smooth or linear. The voices of women, young people and civil society must be central, he said, noting the important contributions of regional organizations such as the European Union and the African Union. Ireland plays an active role in European Union-led military crisis-management missions and civilian missions, he said, noting that Irish troops, police officers, judges, coastguards, as well as rule-of-law and security-sector reform experts serve in missions around the world, from Mali to Lebanon to Ukraine. The United Nations must deploy all its resources, including country teams, special representatives, political missions and mediators, to intervene early in highlighting and stopping human rights abuses while supporting the peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts of local stakeholders.
Rejecting the argument that issues like climate, hunger and human rights do not belong in the Security Council, he declared: “It is not a case of either/or.” Without a firm commitment to supporting the poorest and most vulnerable countries on their development pathways, the international community will never adequately address insecurity and conflict, he emphasized. Accountability will be a watchword of Ireland’s term on the Council, he pledged, affirming its support for the International Criminal Court, the ACT Code of Conduct, as well as the French-Mexican initiative on restricting the use of the veto, which has been abused repeatedly in recent years. The longer the Council goes unreformed, and the longer African countries are denied their rightful level of representation, the greater the threat to the Council’s very legitimacy, he warned. Small States such as Ireland depend on the rules-based international order to survive and to thrive, he said, adding: “We intend to make every day count.”
SAAD-EDDINE EL OTHMANI, Head of Government of Morocco, said it is now more important than ever to implement United Nations reform so the Organization can better respond to modern challenges. Building an effective multilateral system that includes a strong global health security component is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. The urgent provision of a COVID-19 vaccine in a just and equal manner would be an example of a unified global health system, he said. Declaring that the link between underdevelopment and vulnerability has been disproved, he pointed to Africa’s ability to meet the challenges of COVID-19. Aligned with Morocco’s commitment to South-South cooperation, it launched a programme to help the responses of African countries to the virus, including by establishing air bridges to move Moroccan medical assistance and personnel to countries in need, he said.
However, the international community should not forget other challenges still facing the world, including climate change, counter-terrorism, migration and peacekeeping, he urged. On the latter front, he commended the ability of peacekeeping operations to adapt to COVID-19 conditions and to continue their work in various conflict zones. As for the situation in the Moroccan Sahara, he said no definitive political solution will succeed unless there is a recognition of Morocco’s full sovereignty over the Territory, ensuring full respect for the principles and norms of relevant Security Council resolutions. He went on to express concern over the harrowing situation in the Tindouf camps, where an armed group remains in charge, in violation of international humanitarian law. The international community must compel those controlling the camps to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to conduct a registration exercise to put an end to the 40-year diversion of humanitarian assistance.
Describing Morocco’s security as linked to that of Libya, he said the only solution to the conflict there will be a political one, decided by Libyans without foreign interference. To that end, Morocco remains committed to providing a neutral forum for dialogue among stakeholders there, he emphasized. On the question of Palestine, he stressed that no just or lasting peace will be possible unless the Palestinian people are able exercise their right to self-determination and to establish a viable State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. As Chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Committee, Morocco firmly believes that Jerusalem must be protected as humanity’s common heritage, as confirmed in the Jerusalem Appeal signed by Pope Francis and King Mohammed VI in 2019, he declared. In closing, he emphasized that the pandemic must be an opportunity to build a more comprehensive multilateral system that is focused on solidarity, cooperation and shared responsibility.
TIMOTHY HARRIS, Prime Minister and Minister for Sustainable Development, National Security, People Empowerment and Constituency Empowerment of Saint Kitts and Nevis, said this moment of global reckoning in which approximately 1 million people have perished demands a renewal of multilateralism. Congratulating WHO for its stewardship of the global response to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, he reaffirmed support for its framework on “Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator”, and said it provides a solid global response for the rapid development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. His country has been successful in containing the spread of the COVID-19 within its borders, he said, highlighting the establishment of a national emergency coordination committee, closure of borders and a robust public awareness campaign.
The coronavirus disease, he went on, has disrupted international travel and tourism, as well as global supply chains and created widespread unemployment. This unprecedented situation will inevitably stymie the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Calling for financing for development, he said that advanced countries and international financial institutions must respond positively to the call for concessional resources. Given his country’s economic and environmental vulnerabilities as a small island developing State, it is likely to be confronted with the multiplier effect of the pandemic, particularly as it braces for the most intense segment of the hurricane season, he reminded delegates. “Climate change for us is not something to be postponed for tomorrow. It must be addressed like yesterday,” he said, calling for immediate action to promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, manage forests, combat desertification and halt biodiversity loss.
Looking forward to the commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fourth World Conference on Women next week, he added that, while his country has much to celebrate regarding the advancement of women, there are many trails yet to be blazed. Saint Kitts and Nevis will continue to prioritize its pursuit of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Also renewing the call for Taiwan’s inclusion in the international fraternity of nations, he said that would improve the global response and resources available to address transboundary crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO can only benefit from the inclusion of such a worthy member. Equally, the existence of the antiquated embargo against Cuba flies against the spirit of global partnerships, he said, adding that vulnerable nations must be free to access Cuba’s expertise in health and other areas of global concern.
ALLEN MICHAEL CHASTANET, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service of Saint Lucia, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequence on world economies, financial markets and social and humanitarian destabilization demands urgent action. Small island developing States are inherently susceptible to environmental, economic and financial shocks and their vulnerabilities have left them exposed to the ravages of the pandemic. “Every day, as leaders of [small island developing States], we struggle to safeguard our people from the pervasive erosion of our hard-fought developmental gains,” he said. The challenges they face are a symptom of a broader failure by international institutions to keep pace with those States’ practical realities. “We must acknowledge that the global economic architecture, created post‑World War II, never considered small island developing States. And despite the empathy and the understanding of the technocrats at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and our own Caribbean Development Bank, as well as other international financial institutions, they remain constrained by their own inflexible governance structures,” he said.
He said these States are: the most indebted, but least likely to get debt relief; the smallest producers of global goods, but the most restricted by international trade rules; the lowest contributors to terrorist financing, but the most constrained by sanctions lists; and the smallest emitters of carbon, but the most affected by climate change. Noting the support by such States for the use of a vulnerability index to determine eligibility for assistance, he said the international system continues to focus on inaccurate measures of per capita gross domestic product (GDP). “At meeting upon meeting, all we receive are platitudes and more talk. Meanwhile, the storms and hurricanes, the crises and the pandemics, keep coming regardless,” he said, adding that new forms of measurement and criteria must be adopted to allow them to help themselves.
Commending the United Nations response to the pandemic, he noted that support of the United Nations system is critical for the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. He thanked Cuba for its ongoing support during the pandemic, despite its own limitations, and called for the recognition of Taiwan — which has its own elections, currency, military force and controls its own air space — so that it can meaningfully engage in global processes and share its best practices. Taiwan has demonstrated impressive leadership by managing the spread of COVID-19 at home and by coming to the aid of Saint Lucia and many other countries with medical resources and technical advice. “Saint Lucia would never have done as well as we did with managing the pandemic without friends like the people of Taiwan and Cuba,” he said, noting that his country has only recorded 27 cases with no deaths. He closed by stressing that the plight of small island developing States is the plight of the United Nations.
KEITH ROWLEY, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said that, as a small island developing State grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, his country walks a thin line between saving lives and preserving livelihoods, with limited resources. As the crisis “crushed the travel and leisure industry”, it has alarmingly intensified the vulnerabilities of small economies, threatening to reverse gains towards Sustainable Development Goal targets. Unfortunately, he said, the pandemic has exacerbated the threats posed by the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, piracy, trafficking in persons and cybercrimes. Noting that Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most multi-ethnic and diverse societies in the world, he expressed unwavering support for the mandate of the International Criminal Court, established to hold those who commit heinous crimes accountable and act as a deterrent to would-be perpetrators.
Quoting the country’s first Prime Minister, Eric Williams, that “the future of our nation is in our children’s school bags”, he said his Government is ensuring they have the opportunity and tools to fulfil their potential. The country is also pivoting towards the digital transformation of the public sector. The existential pernicious threat of climate change will disproportionately affect small island developing States and least developed countries, with Trinidad and Tobago at high risk, already manifest in coastal erosion due to rising sea level. The country emphasizes multi-pronged approaches to adapt to and mitigate the problem. Noting the pandemic and decreases in energy prices have precipitated accelerated efforts to diversify the economy, he said investment in agriculture will reduce demand for certain imported foods and preserve limited financial resources.
He noted that the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has cautioned that a debt crisis looms for the economies of those regions, which will compound high debt-to-GDP and debt service ratios, making a strong case for special consideration for debt relief. He urged the international community to assist with financial support to developing countries, including middle-income States like Trinidad and Tobago. Given the crucial importance of the marine environment to the country’s livelihood, he expressed regret over postponement of the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Conference on an International Legally Binding Instrument under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, and remained hopeful for its resumption.
HUBERT MINNIS, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, said that, when he addressed the General Assembly in 2019, he implored world leaders to treat the global climate emergency as the greatest challenge facing humanity. Tourism is the main economic earner for the Bahamas, which has had to temporarily close its borders and regulate the movement of people to limit the spread of COVID-19. This closure has caused one of the largest declines in visitor numbers since the advent of modern tourism in his country. The Bahamas experienced major hurricanes in 2015, 2016, 2017 and September 2018, faced Hurricane Dorian, the largest Atlantic storm in recorded history, causing $3.4 billion in damages. Infrastructure and housing projects are ongoing, and his Government continues to reach out to international partners for the much-needed assistance. A donors conference coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was held in Nassau in January.
The economies of small island developing States are under constant assault from various external shocks beyond their control, he said. They are among the most disaster-prone areas in the world. Pandemics, hurricanes and climate events do not discriminate between low-income countries, middle-income countries and developed economies, he said, asking why middle-income countries are still being assessed by international financial institutions using outdated methodologies that give no consideration to a country’s level of exposure, vulnerability and ability to recover from exogenous shocks. According to ECLAC, COVID-19 has reversed development gains in the region by at least a decade, while the World Bank projects at least 100 million more people will be pushed into extreme poverty. “I, therefore, reiterate the call for the institutionalization of a vulnerability index in the decision-making processes of the international financial institutions and the international donor community,” he said, also calling for the capitalization of a Caribbean Resilience Fund.
The international community faces unprecedented climatic and environmental challenges, he continued. Scientific reviews reveal that 60 per cent of the world’s ocean area is impacted by adverse human activity, including overfishing, pollution and acidification from chemicals. The Bahamas continues to play its role in the preservation of a healthy marine and land environment, which includes the expansion of marine protected areas and heritage sites. His country will continue to remain actively engaged in the negotiations towards an international treaty to sustainably use and conserve marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
ABDALLA ADAM HAMDOK, Prime Minister of Sudan, said the world is facing a “dark, strange enemy” that respects no borders and does not distinguish between rich and poor countries. Sudan is experiencing unprecedented torrential rain and floods, with the flooding of Nile causing severe loss of life and property throughout that region, damaging or completely collapsing tens of thousands of houses. However, after Sudan’s glorious revolution, his Government is driving a transitional phase, addressing the circumstances that mobilized its people, focused on restoring peace and the economy. He noted the pandemic has further complicated these challenges and those inherited by the Government, including a health sector that had been neglected for decades.
He noted that the adoption of the constitutional declaration on 17 August 2019 marked the second stage of the victory of the revolution, with peace as its first priority. He thanked the international community for its support in dealing with refugees and repatriated people, noting Sudan is working to ensure that refugees and displaced persons are given living conditions in compliance with all international law. Along with this national plan to improve humanitarian actions, his Government is cooperating with UNAMID. Sudan submitted its first progress report on the current phase on 15 August. With its citizens doubly suffering economically due to the pandemic and practices inherited from the previous obsolete regime, his Government is restructuring the economy to make it more rational and providing social support for poor families. The objective is to strengthen production and bolster the agricultural and production sectors in both towns and rural society, strengthening national capacity.
The constitutional declaration grants particular importance to human rights, with the Government taking steps to deal with the damage of the previous totalitarian regime, especially laws that suppressed freedom, and addressing issues of women’s rights, peaceful assembly and fighting impunity. He noted Sudan recently reopened the country office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and is working to contribute to the stability of Africa, co-chairing the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Paying tribute to “the blood of our martyrs after decades of tyranny, injustice and social disintegration”, he said Sudan needs the support of the international community to improve its economic situation, including debt forgiveness, and called for the country to be removed from the list of States sponsoring terrorism. “Sudan has returned to the international fold after 30 years outside it,” he said, looking towards becoming an active player on the regional stage and in the international community.
BOB LOUGHMAN, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, said that worldwide, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is deepening community divisions, escalating geopolitical tensions, changing trade relations and threatening peace. “It is most worrisome that these complex global challenges are compounding at a time when our multilateral environment is under its most severe pressure to date,” he said. The United Nations must be strengthened, not weakened, he said, comparing the Organization to a big boat with individual States occupying individual cabins. As a small island developing State in the Pacific, Vanuatu knows from experience that working together always makes everyone better off. While it has seen no confirmed cases of COVID-19, Vanuatu is facing serious economic and social costs from the pandemic, aggravated by a tropical cyclone that struck in April. Ever looming is the threat of future disasters and extreme weather events fuelled and exacerbated by climate change. “Even so, our experience assures us that by working together, we can and we will recover, we will build back better and emerge stronger and more resilient,” he said.
Amidst the uncertainty and chaos, 2020 is a special year for Vanuatu, which marked its fortieth anniversary of independence in July and awaits its graduation from least developed country status in December, he said. The country is proud of its achievements, but also mindful that it has a long way to go to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. He asked bilateral, regional and multilateral development and trading partners to provide their full support going forward, but also warned that this year’s crises and the ongoing fracturing of multilateralism risk diluting global development aspirations. “We must keep moving forward and not just revert back to how it was before,” he said.
For small island developing States, the biggest threats — climate change and ocean management — are global ones which require global solutions, he said. That will require a fully functional United Nations that works in solid partnership with Member States. Emphasizing how COVID-19 has increased the debt burden of countries that can least afford to service them, he said that multilateral financial institutions must provide debt forgiveness and relief, accompanied by tailored concessional finance packages and grants. Climate financing must be increased to ensure the recapitalization of the Green Climate Fund. It is also imperative to ensure, through the United Nations, that every country gets timely, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. He went on to underscore Vanuatu’s strong cultural connection with the Umaenupne and Umaeneag islands, commonly referred to in English as Matthew and Hunter Islands, which France unlawfully claims as its own. He added that the upcoming independence referendum in New Caledonia must be free, fair, transparent and under United Nations supervision.
JOSÉ ULISSES CORREIA E SILVA, Prime Minister and Minister of Reform of Cabo Verde, said that, given the COVID-19 pandemic, “humanity is confronting its greatest challenge in more than a century”. Rich countries are responding to the coronavirus with hundreds of billions of dollars in economic stimuli, but Africa and small island developing States lack the savings required to recover and relaunch themselves. Nobody wins when Africa becomes more impoverished, but everyone wins if African countries can access the resources that they need to overcome the crisis and enter a new era of structural transformations that will strengthen their economies and lift their positions in the Human Development Index. In such a context, access to a COVID-19 vaccine should be equitable and universal and external debts should be forgiven, he said.
Small island developing States require a differentiated approach that acknowledges their vulnerability to external shocks as well as their great dependence on tourism, he said. Many such States are taking steps to become more resilient, but it takes time for these to take effect. “That is why it makes perfect sense to focus on debt cancellation or relief initiatives leading to not just the recovery of economies but the pursuit of sustainable development.” Global efforts should not be a matter of eligibility based on per capita GDP, but rather focus on evidence that reforms are helping States make progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
He outlined in detail the ways that Cabo Verde is financing its strategic development with funds that would otherwise have gone towards external debt servicing. He also called for the speedier implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals “so we can better respond, recover and rebuild”. The pandemic must not confine the ambition of the Goals, he said, emphasizing the increased responsibility for political leaders to forge a more sustainable world once the pandemic has passed. Underscoring the undeniable importance of multilateralism, he called for the United Nations to be reformed to address the composition and functioning of the Security Council, the revitalization of the General Assembly and the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council.
CHRISTIAN NTSAY, Prime Minister of Madagascar, said that the United Nations seventy-fifth anniversary taking place in unusual circumstances should be taken as a sign of the world’s fragility and the international community should come together with a shared faith for the collective future. The immediate challenges facing the Organization are immense. COVID-19 does not distinguish based on age, religion, gender or race. The deep social inequalities the United Nations has fought have been exacerbated by the health crisis. Several national elections have had to be delayed, which destabilizes democracy. The economic crisis has become widespread. The unexpected emergence of COVID-19 has exposed collective shortcomings. This requires a rethinking of the scope and reach of the multilateralism so that every country has a shared bedrock of resilience. Madagascar has addressed the pandemic as much as its resources will allow.
Madagascar is a haven of biodiversity and Covid-organics, or CVO, which is both preventative and curative, and has allowed his country to avoid a human tragedy with the spread of COVID-19, he said. This remedy has been distributed en masse. He paid tribute to medical personnel, volunteers and essential service workers for their sacrifice and services, helping the sick and protecting fellow citizens, sometimes risking their own lives in the process. The COVID-19 recovery rate in Madagascar is 93 per cent while mortality is at 1.2 per cent.
It is essential that the international community create new, innovative response instruments for the production of medicines and vaccines, he said. The question of economic development and social progress remains a priority. COVID-19 has exposed the limits of multilateralism and it is essential that corrections are made. This needs to be done so that achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda is not jeopardized. There should be a new multilateral initiative for a “post-COVID agenda” under the banner of the United Nations. This initiative would aim to coordinate multilateral commitments in order to respond to the socioeconomic risks brought about by the health crisis.
WALID AL-MOUALEM, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, said that every day, the world is straying further from the principles and values underpinning the United Nations and international norms because some Governments have illegally imposed their own agendas on other nations and used the Organization to further their ambitions. Paradoxically, the situation today does not bode well for the “future we want” nor reflect the United Nations “we need”. The world wants a secure and prosperous future, free from terrorism, occupation and inhumane sanctions, and it needs a United Nations that supports its members while avoiding politicization and illegal interference. While the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the important question is: will this new reality compel some to put aside their narrow interests and return to the right path? Unfortunately, even as the pandemic rages worldwide, he said, new or renewed unilateral coercive measures persist, including the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which is an inhumane attempt to suffocate Syrians, just like George Floyd and others were cruelly suffocated in the United States, and just like Israel suffocates Palestinians on a daily basis. Although the tactics may differ, the essence is the same, and they are violating international law, he said, calling on all affected nations to close ranks against them.
Despite repeated statements that terrorism threatens international peace and security, he said some nations invest in, support and fuel terrorist groups, moving them across regions in the service of their agendas. The current Turkish regime facilitates the passage of tens of thousands of foreign terrorists into Syria and supports Al-Nusra Front and its affiliates while carrying out forced displacement policies in territories it occupies in Syria. Indeed, the continued illegitimate presence of United States and Turkish forces in Syria meets all the legal conditions of an occupation, he said, condemning all related crimes, and citing the words of President Bashar Al-Assad, who recently told Parliament that “we will not make a distinction between Zionists, Turks and Americans; on our territory, they are all enemies.”
Regarding Syria’s political process, he said the Government has been engaged, participating in the Geneva talks, Moscow consultations and Astana meetings. Success, however, is only possible if there is no external interference in its work; the whole process must be exclusively Syrian-led and Syrian-owned. Turning to regional concerns, he said Israel persists in committing systematic and grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Syrian Golan and has supported terrorists and launched repeated attacks on Syrian territories, as the international community remains silent. Syria will not rest until it recovers the Syrian Golan, based on 1967 borders. Reiterating Syria’s steadfast support for the Palestinian people’s right to establish their own State, he said refugees must be guaranteed the right to return in line with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. Renewing Syria’s support for Iran against the United States policy aimed at destabilizing the region and undermining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he condemned Washington, D.C., for unjust economic embargos on Cuba and Venezuela, stressing that the sovereign rights of these nations must be respected.
VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, said that the global death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise and the economy, trade and travel have all been severely disrupted. Millions of jobs and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. The world is facing a period of prolonged turmoil and the multilateral system is confronted by nationalism, xenophobia and the rejection of free trade and global economic integration. But these threats are not new. COVID‑19 has accelerated and intensified these pre-existing trends. The path to the post-COVID-19 “new normal” will not be linear. At each step of the way, all countries need to balance public health concerns with economic and social concerns and make trade-offs based on their unique national circumstances. Continued international cooperation is key to overcoming the devastating impact of the pandemic. “The pursuit of vaccine multilateralism is critical to ensure universal and equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said, noting that Singapore and Switzerland have been working with 13 other partners as Friends of the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX). Singapore supports WHO efforts to formulate responses to COVID-19, he said, adding: “Post-pandemic, it may be necessary to review how the WHO processes can be improved further, but for now, we should focus on the immediate priority of overcoming the pandemic.”
On climate change, he said the international community must not lose sight of its goal to preserve the planet for future generations. “It is irrefutable that respect for biodiversity and wildlife is essential for humankind’s health and existence,” he said. Countries should therefore align recovery efforts with long-term climate goals. Climate change presents a clear and present danger for Singapore and for all other small island nations. Although his country’s impact on global emissions is small, it is especially vulnerable, which is why Singapore takes its climate action obligations so seriously. It submitted its enhanced 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement and Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy for 2050 and beyond to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in March 2020. Turning to United Nations reform, he called for revitalizing the United Nations and for long-standing support to the needs of small island developing States, as well as reforming the WTO.
AMADOU BÂ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Senegalese Diaspora of Senegal, said that, given the COVID-19 pandemic, this year “will remain forever etched in our memories”. Emphasizing the need for rapid and affordable access to essential medical supplies — and noting Senegal’s partnership with the Pasteur Institute and the United Kingdom to develop COVID-19 testing kits — he said that any coronavirus vaccine should be considered a global public good that is accessible to all countries. To ensure economic recovery and social stability, developed countries should fulfil their official development assistance (ODA) commitments, alongside the cancellation of public debt and restructuring of private debt. He called on the African Union to continue its efforts for a moratorium on debt servicing through 2021, adding however that what Africa really needs is debt forgiveness.
Without a doubt, he said, the United Nations has contributed significantly to ridding the world of war, poverty and exclusion, but what is needed today is a rejuvenated form of multilateralism, with the Organization capable of responding to existential issues so that no one is left behind. Addressing the fact that Africa is the only continent with no permanent seat on the Security Council is a moral imperative. While terrorism and violent extremism are finding fertile ground in the Sahel, the other Africa — with its youthful population, abundant resources and entrepreneurial spirit — must not be ignored. He went on to say that the determination with which the world is beating back COVID-19 should inspire its response to climate change and the erosion of global biodiversity.
KATRIN EGGENBERGER, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Justice and Culture of Liechtenstein, said the ongoing pandemic is “a difficult and humbling experience for all.” While there is an understandable temptation to return to status quo ante, the pandemic has changed the global reality and most importantly, exacerbated existing inequalities. Had the international community done better in achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda, from gender equality, to health care, to climate change, she said “we would have been much better prepared to fight the pandemic effectively and in a spirit of genuine solidarity”. The Secretary-General had identified, pre-pandemic, the erosion of trust in institutions and the rule of law a major risk for peaceful societies, which undermines a coordinated, unified and effective response.
She said that more than ever, there is a trend among some States to question the centrality of the rule of law, and “adhering to the rules that we have agreed on, the respect for international law, is of central importance for small States, who make up the majority of the membership in this house.” The rules of the Charter of the United Nations are increasingly diluted in practice, especially regarding self-defence, which is particularly dangerous in an era of increased militarization and cyberwarfare. She added that Liechtenstein is working with partners to help develop a clear understanding of how international law applies to the cybersphere. The dramatically widening inequality gap is one of the biggest challenges to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, with forced labour the most prevalent form of modern slavery and human trafficking. Working with other Governments and private sector partners, Liechtenstein launched the “Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking” initiative to help fight a global human rights crisis that massively undermines the 2030 Agenda. As modern slavery and human trafficking represent one of the most profitable organized crime models, the initiative identifies tools for financial institutions to help effectively fight these crimes in the areas of compliance, responsible investment and financial innovation.
ALEXANDER SCHALLENBERG, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria, said that although the United Nations is not free of faults, it can be very proud of its achievements. The world continues to face numerous threats, some of which would have been familiar to those meeting in 1945, including armed conflicts, forcibly displaced persons, terrorism, political repression and extreme poverty. There are also new and emerging threats, such as cyberwarfare, bioterrorism and climate change. At the moment, one threat towers over all of them. COVID-19 affects everyone and the pandemic has changed the way humanity lives and the way it works. Much of the progress on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals is endangered. The pandemic has triggered the most severe recession in almost a century. In international relations, COVID-19 fuels the fire of existing geopolitical conflicts, while casting a shadow onto other security threats.
An increasing number of people see the pandemic as a clear indication that the world as a whole is moving in the wrong direction, he said. They reject the advances in technology, medicine, science, communication and business. Technological progress has jumped ahead, but it has left parts of the population behind. This growing tension between new technologies and society is a challenge for politics at the national and international level. He warned the General Assembly about autonomous weapons systems, “machines with the power to decide who lives and who dies”. This is not science fiction, he said, but is fast becoming a reality, one that the Secretary-General has called politically unacceptable and morally repugnant. Action must be taken now, before the survival of civilians in a conflict zone is determined by an algorithm and before all constraints laid down in international humanitarian law become redundant and decisions are taken by killer robots without any human control or ethical concerns. Austria will organize an international conference in 2021 to address this issue, COVID-19 permitting. These weapons pose an existential threat to life on this planet and cause tremendous human suffering, he said.
VLADIMIR MAKEI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said the pandemic may lead to a paradigm shift, but it is evident that the international community failed at the outset to face the challenge in a united way. While Belarus believes in international community, some countries chose to accuse others of acting wrongly during the pandemic, and national contexts have become a determining factor in dealing with the virus. Belarus took an approach aimed at protecting its citizens. The COVID-19 outbreak has demonstrated how interconnected countries are, and the world clearly needs to work together. The United Nations and Security Council must be fit for purpose. Dialogue is needed to, among other things, advance security efforts, he said, adding that Belarus will present a draft resolution during the current Assembly session addressing weapons of mass destruction.
Political and economic threats must end, he said, pointing at some Western nations who are focusing their attention on Belarus. In August, the people of Belarus made their choice in elections. Rather than respecting this choice, external actors are attempting to destabilize the situation and bring chaos. Interference and sanctions will help no one, he said, adding that civilized dialogue and constitutional reform will guide the country into the future. Indeed, decades-long blockades on sovereign States, including Cuba, are a threat that must end. The health of the global economy is at risk, making it ever clearer the type of approach needed to advance sustainable development. For its part, Belarus is striking a balance, supporting a green economy and involving domestic and international partners. Indeed, partnership is a key factor to realizing the 2030 Agenda. This unusual year has forced humanity to rethink its way of life, and going forward, nations must aim at building a better world. As such, the United Nations and the Security Council must move with the times, ending wars, applying international law and helping nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, pledging his country’s steadfast support.
Right of Reply
The representative of Armenia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, resolutely rejected the Azerbaijan representative’s repetitive narratives on root causes and settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. That representative failed to note that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh achieved independence in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in full compliance with international laws. Azerbaijan’s brutal response began in 1988 with mass violence and atrocities, he said, the Sumgait atrocity being the first identity-based mass crime in Europe since the Second World War. Allegations on ethnic cleansing are cynicism coming from Azerbaijan, given the premediated massacre of a century ago, and the total elimination of Armenians is at the core of its modern State-building. Azerbaijan’s worldwide portrayal of Armenians as “Enemy Number One” is that country’s last recourse, he said, calling for that delegate’s recent statement to be recognized as hate speech and genocidal intent towards Armenians. Stating that Azerbaijan bears the full responsibility for violating recent ceasefires, he added “the elected representative of Nagorno-Karabakh” has been an internationally recognized term since 1992.
The representative of Indonesia, in response to the statement by the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, said it is shameful that this country has an unhealthy obsession with how Indonesia should act or govern itself. To do what is right is to respect the principles of non-interference in the affairs of other countries and to respect their sovereignty. At a time when there is an emergency health crisis, Vanuatu prefers to instil enmity and sow division. Indonesia is committed to human rights. She called on the Government of Vanuatu to fulfil its human rights responsibilities to its people and the world. Vanuatu does not represent the people of Papua. “Papuans are Indonesians and all of us play an important role in the development of Indonesia, including on the island of Indonesia,” she said. Indonesia will defend itself again any advocacy of separatism operating under the guise of human rights concerns.