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GA/12273
29 September 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)

COVID-19 Pandemic Demonstrates Multilateral Cooperation Key to Overcoming Global Challenges, President Stresses as General Assembly Concludes Annual Debate

Leaders Discuss National Efforts to Develop Vaccine, Highlight Uneven
Burden of Developing Countries in Mitigating Climate Change, Securing Financing

The COVID‑19 pandemic has been a test, demonstrating that multilateral cooperation is the key to overcoming global challenges, the President of the General Assembly said today at the conclusion of the seventy‑fifth session’s unprecedented general debate, as Member States — largely via pre‑recorded video statements — overwhelmingly stressed the need for collective action to tackle common threats and “vaccine multilateralism” to combat the coronavirus.

Assembly President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey) said Member States had voiced their strong support for multilateralism, even though, for the first time in United Nations history, global leaders could not physically attend the general debate due to COVID‑19‑related restrictions at Headquarters.  Indeed, the fact that leaders chose to address the General Assembly reflects the role of this world body, he said, with the vast majority confirming that multilateralism is the most effective system to address global threats.

World leaders had echoed the concept of “ever more united nations” throughout the general debate, he said, as they called on him to focus on pandemic‑related actions:  early warning systems, dealing effectively with the crisis and access to vaccines.  A disease with no respect for borders requires a collective response, he said, adding that:  “COVID-19 is a practice test that exhibits our weaknesses; we must build resilience now for whatever comes tomorrow.”

Even though COVID‑19 has diverted attention and resources from such pressing challenges as conflicts, hunger and global warming, he said climate change still represents the greatest threat to humanity.  Welcoming strong support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said messages heard during the general debate indicated that efforts must continue to reach the agreed upon goals.  In terms of security, he said that now is the time to fully implement the global ceasefire.

While the challenges facing the world are enormous, from nuclear disarmament to persistent gender inequality, he said, they can be overcome when the world works together.  Pledging to work with Member States to overcome differences and to involve civil society in meetings throughout the session, he said that one thing is clear:  “We are stronger together.”

As the Assembly concluded its general debate with the hope that its next session will be held fully in person, Member States continued to call for cooperative approaches to address the COVID‑19 pandemic, stressing that respect for the international rules‑based order is the cornerstone to overcoming current and future crises.  Many shared national approaches to stemming the spread of and developing a vaccine for the coronavirus while underlining the importance of multilateralism in fostering a collective response.  Some said the pandemic clearly demonstrates a need to reform multilateral systems, including the United Nations.

“The world is changing and if you don’t change, you risk becoming obsolete,” Nayib Armando Bukele, President of El Salvador, said, adding that the General Assembly has become so irrelevant, no one even discusses the matter.  Expressing a desire to see the Assembly transform so it can survive and become a great tool for mankind, he said the pandemic has shown that the United Nations is lacking the leadership required to truly bring the world together.  The Organization must prepare for the next global threat, he cautioned.  The world has the tools, “but we must take control of our destiny,” he said, adding that working together will make it possible to shape one of the golden ages of mankind.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minster of Israel, hailed the historic United States‑brokered agreements signed between his Government, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, not only the first peace agreements his country has signed with an Arab State in a quarter century, but the first time two were announced in one day.  The deals will generate benefits in many sectors, he noted, expressing hope that others will join the “circle of peace” soon.  Mr. Netanyahu went on to condemn Iran’s violations of nuclear agreements and lamented inaction by the Security Council to hold Tehran accountable.

Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, said that solving crises, especially in the Arab region, requires a unified international position that rejects the violation of State sovereignty and interference in internal affairs.  His Government has repeatedly warned against the expansionist ambitions of some States in the region, consistently calling upon the international community to end that interference, he said, affirming his country’s legitimate right to sovereignty over the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa and calling on Iran to act in good faith.

The representative of Myanmar said that in Rakhine state, colonial cross- border migration and intercommunal violence have sowed mutual mistrust among communities.  Myanmar’s commitment to receive verified returnees remains steadfast and he invited Bangladesh to demonstrate the will to cooperate by adhering to related agreements.  “Pressure tactics will be futile,” he said.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, warned the Assembly that the lack of transparency and increasing disinformation in COVID‑19 responses has led to deaths and that the path out of the crisis requires science‑based cooperation based on common rules.  “This crisis also shows that international cooperation is neither an ideology nor an end in itself. On the contrary, it delivers results,” he said.

In the debate’s final day, leaders of developing States — including small island developing States — continued to highlight the uneven burden they face in mitigating climate change and securing development financing.

“The greatest contributors to the climate crisis do not bear the consequences proportionately,” said Jerome Walcott, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Barbados, adding that certain countries provide suggestions on how small island developing States must mitigate climate change, while at the same time acting in a way that severely undermines those efforts.

Abdulla Shahid, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, said these States face immense debt burdens and recent debt service suspensions which are set to end in early 2021 will result in negligible benefits and called for an extension of debt relief efforts.  The pandemic highlights the importance of international cooperation, he said, adding:  “In the Maldives, without the support of our friends, our bilateral and multilateral partners, we would not be able to continue weathering this storm”.

“The task is ours to provide guidance and hope to our populations,” said Kenneth Darroux, Dominica’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations, as he stressed that the impact of COVID‑19 has exacerbated the limitations of small island developing States that already face inherent challenges, including in protecting their citizens.  Countries could lose an entire generation if they do not rise to the occasion, he stressed.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Mauritania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, called for pooled efforts to minimize the economic impact of the pandemic, especially in developing countries.  He said in Mauritania a drop in gross domestic product (GDP) and fiscal resources have led to a budget deficit and called for the cancellation of debt for African countries so they can address the socioeconomic fallout.

New Zealand’s representative echoed a common thread running through the debate, saying that interdependence with other nations is never more evident as the world tackles COVID‑19.  “We need to invest in and trust each other,” he declared, encouraging Member States to support vaccine multilateralism as the world grapples with the pandemic.

In other business, the General Assembly adopted the decision titled “High‑level meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations” (document A/75/L.2), which outlined procedures for holding the event with regard to COVID‑19‑related restrictions.

The Assembly will conclude its high‑level meeting to commemorate the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations on Monday, 26 October.  (For details, see Press Release GA/12267 of 21 September 2020.)

Also speaking today were ministers and representatives of Iceland, San Marino, Belize, Romania, Eritrea, Montenegro, Oman, Benin, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Tunisia, Grenada, Cameroon, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Uganda, Togo and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Bangladesh, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Myanmar, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Yemen.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 October to elect members of the Human Rights Council.

Statements

GUDLAUGUR THÓR THÓRDARSON, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Development of Iceland, said COVID‑19 responses call for a redoubling of effort to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, adding that the fate of all nations is interlinked with the successes and failures of others.  The greatest challenges facing the world can only by addressed collectively, he said, calling for climate action to be placed at the heart of global recovery efforts.  Iceland remains fully committed to the Paris Agreement on climate change, he said, adding that to build back greener, States must make full use of science, innovation and positive financial stimulus.  Iceland is implementing policy to achieve a 35 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and full carbon neutrality by 2040.

Firm commitment to gender equality is a fundamental human right and is critical to accelerate development, he said, also warning the Assembly that growing nationalism and intolerance continue to undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Member States must not hesitate to use legal, economic and political tools at their disposal to address human rights violations.  “It is our duty to support and protect human rights defenders,” he said, also calling for increased protection for media freedom.  Noting that the Human Rights Council provides a platform for large and small States to speak out for suppressed or silenced populations, he regretted that some States with poor human rights records consistently undermine the Body’s integrity.  He called for support to political and peaceful solutions to conflict in Syria, Yemen and Libya and voiced concern about Russian interference in Ukraine and Georgia.  “The United Nations remains the only international body equipped to bring together different nationalities, political ideologies and religions for common good,” he said, stressing that international institutions must never serve to shelter those who undermine the principles of the international rules‑based order.

LUCA BECCARI, San Marino, said his country was among those more severely affected by the pandemic, having suffered one of the world’s highest infection rates, with dramatic consequences.  The immense efforts required to address the global health emergency and economic contraction created an unprecedented structural challenge.  Re‑establishing previous levels of wealth and health will require solidarity.  Welcoming the World Health Organization’s (WHO) strategic preparedness and response plan, he said San Marino also joined the Secretary‑General’s global call to end all violence against women everywhere, including in the home.  All children must have access to inclusive, quality education, nutrition and health care, with other efforts geared towards preventing domestic violence, children’s sexual exploitation online and offline, and cyberbullying.  He expressed concern about the number of violations against children and that education is still under attack, while also recognizing the important contributions of older persons to society and calling for their participation in the pandemic response, which itself must be disability inclusive.  On that point, he welcomed that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) included COVID‑19 guidance on triage developed by San Marino’s Bioethics Committee among its so‑called “promising practices”.

He went on to denounce the spread of misinformation and disinformation, which places lives at risk.  “The COVID‑19 crisis has demonstrated the crucial need for access to free, reliable, trustworthy, factual, clear and science‑based information,” he said, pressing States, regional organizations, United Nations, media, social media and non‑governmental organizations to assume their duties in helping people address this “infodemic”.  In 2019, San Marino organized a high‑level conference on the dangers of disinformation, and in April 2020, joined the cross‑regional statement in support of the Verified campaign.  Noting that the 2010‑2019 decade was the warmest on record, he urged both Governments and the private sector to accelerate the transition to climate‑resilient economies and deemed it crucial to likewise curb food loss and waste through more sustainable production and consumption practices.  The challenges posed by protectionism and isolationism must - and can - be countered by cooperation and international law, which have guided Member States for decades, he assured.  It is essential to preserve these values.

ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, said that solving crises, especially in the Arab region, requires a unified international position that rejects the violation of State sovereignty and interference in internal affairs.  His Government has repeatedly warned against the expansionist ambitions of some States in the region, consistently calling upon the international community to end that interference.  “The tensions in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq and other States are all related to blatant interference in Arab affairs made by States that incite strife and discord, or that have historical delusions of restoring their domination and colonial rule over the Arab region and the Horn of Africa.  The result has been brutal wars,” he said.  Although illegal interference has destabilized Yemen for years, he expressed strong belief that stability can be restored, commending the efforts of the “brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and reiterating support for the Riyadh Agreement.  He also expressed deep concern about Turkey’s military interference in Libya, calling for an immediate ceasefire, and warned of the serious implications of interference in Syrian affairs for Arab security.

He affirmed his country’s legitimate right to sovereignty over the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa, which are occupied by Iran in flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, demanding return to their rightful owners.  He noted Iran has not responded to calls to peacefully resolve the issue through direct negotiations and good neighbourliness by stopping development of its ballistic missiles programme and ceasing to arm terrorist groups.  Turning to the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said his country has been at the forefront of the international response, providing assistance worldwide and supporting international institutions.  It also adopted an effective scientific programme to contain it, carrying out the largest possible number of tests and sharing results with partners.  Encouraging innovation and technology, the United Arab Emirates has created a sustainable economy and intends to launch a probe to Mars this year.

HEIKO MAAS, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said the lack of transparency and disinformation in COVID‑19 responses has led to deaths and that the path out of the crisis requires science‑based cooperation based on common rules.  Germany set aside over 3 billion euros for global crisis management and, as the world’s largest exporter of pharmaceutical products, is committed to fairly distributing potential vaccines and medicines against COVID‑19 as a global public good.  “This crisis also shows that international cooperation is neither an ideology nor an end in itself. On the contrary, it delivers results,” he said and pointed to negotiations between the Russian Federation, Ukraine, France and Germany to bring about a ceasefire in Ukraine as a clear example.  In Libya, he said rapprochement between the Government in Tripoli and forces in the east of the country is a major step forward, adding that improved relations between Israel and Arab countries also offers grounds for hope.

He warned the Assembly that the Secretary‑General’s call for a global ceasefire fell on deaf ears and called for increased efforts, including dialogue among relevant States, to combat terrorism in the Sahel.  He called for a new international effort to bring peace to Syria, including a nationwide ceasefire and a comprehensive constitutional process as envisaged in relevant Security Council resolutions.  Germany will continue to ensure that those responsible for the worst crimes against humanity are held accountable before German courts, he said, pledging support for United Nations mechanisms for investigating these crimes.  The flouting of chemical weapons bans also poses an existential threat, he said, referring to the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and calling on the Russian Federation to do more to investigate the matter.  He defined climate change as the biggest threat to security, prosperity and development facing the world, and as such, vowed to place the matter firmly on the Security Council’s agenda.  Turning to unrest in Europe, he said ongoing violence and suppression by the Government of Belarus “must also have consequences if we are serious about our values and our international agreements”.

WILFRED P. ELRINGTON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belize, describing the pandemic’s deep domestic economic and health impact, outlined national strategies to cope with devasted tourism and agriculture sectors.  Even with such plans as a new health task force and programmes allocating $10 million to food assistance and $24.5 million for unemployment relief, economic growth is expected to contract by some 20 to 25 per cent, three times the global average.  Regretfully, the international response to the pandemic, not unlike its response to the climate catastrophe, continues to be tepid, with the weaker nations and peoples having to bear the brunt of the ravages of the global missteps.  These two crises lay bare the systemic ineptitude of the global financial and economic institutions and the inequity of their rules and decision‑making procedures.  While rich and powerful nations are fixated on preserving their competitive advantage, they are seemingly heedless of these institutions’ failures and the suffering of the people whose needs they are ostensibly designed to cater to.  “Simply put, none of us have the luxury of time to repeat the follies of the past in the false hope that they will produce different results,” he said, recalling that bushfires on the coast of the United States, a hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season, drought in Central America, flooding of Africa and the COVID‑19 pandemic are stark reminders of the fast‑approaching limits of planetary sustainability for human survival.  “Science gives us a decade, if that much, to course correct.  The stakes could not be higher.”

Multilateralism is on the front line, he continued, emphasizing that the next steps for the United Nations are manifest.  The pandemic has revealed the entrenched duality between the haves and the have nots, and the recovery must truly be effective.  Presenting a five‑point plan, he said recovery from the pandemic is an opportunity to expedite recovery from the unsustainable use of planetary resources and build resilience to future shocks, particularly for small island developing States.  Pressure must continue on major emitters; equal efforts must drive forward development goals the pandemic has undercut; all stakeholders must respect the principle of leaving no one behind; and reform must make multilateral systems inclusive and fit for purpose.  All States must be treated equally and the right to self‑determination must be respected.  This “is also applicable to the people of the Republic of China (Taiwan),” he said, calling for Taiwan’s full participation in the United Nations system.  He also reiterated Belize’s solidarity with the Palestinian people, who continue to suffer under illegal occupation.  For its part, his delegation continues to pursue a peaceful and just settlement of the Guatemala claim to Belize by participating fully in the legal process at the International Court of Justice.  Concluding, he said that 2020 is “humanity’s defining moment”, emphasizing that:  “Multilateralism is on the front line, but I am confident that we will arise from this dark moment stronger and more resilient as nations unite.”

BOGDAN LUCIAN AURESCU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Romania, noting the pandemic has demonstrated yet again that global challenges require common action, echoed the Secretary‑General’s call for “a quantum leap in collective engagement” in harnessing opportunities to build back better and greener.  While hunger, youth unemployment and gender inequality are on the rise, more action is needed to fully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.  He pressed leaders to set adequate policies, budgets, institutions and regulatory frameworks, and to both involve and listen to citizens.  On the environmental front, he called for a rational use of planetary resources when pursuing economic growth, in full respect for biodiversity.  “We can no longer afford to ignore the risks of climate change,” he said, outlining Romania’s goal to create by 2050 a framework for integrating economic, social and environmental policies to ensure sustainable development.

Stressing that gender equality and women’s rights are essential to recovering faster and better from the pandemic, he went on to call for a universal political commitment to digital security and noted that Romania’s digital sector accounts for 6 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP).  The goal is to make the country less bureaucratic, more resilient and more attractive for foreign investment, and possibly turn Romania into a regional innovation hub.  COVID‑19 has underscored the need for reliable, accurate and science‑based information, confirming the role of a free, independent, accountable and pluralistic media in strengthening transparency and trust.  Romania has redirected more than half of its budget for international development cooperation in response to COVID‑19, consolidating the institutional capacity of health systems, among other aims.  It also has included refugees in the national public health coverage and ensures their access to all necessary medical facilities.

OSMAN SALEH MOHAMMED, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, recalled his statement of 2019 that “the world is on the cusp of a new world order”, with all vital parameters indicating the unipolar status quo has come to an end or is in its twilight years.  He noted the economic power balance is inexorably changing, with a spike in attendant intense rivalries and upheavals.  Africa has faced an onerous lot for the past quarter century, with its resources plundered wantonly, wars and upheavals increasing and festering.  That has left almost 1 billion Africans marginalized through collusion of external predators, their local surrogates and corrupt special‑interest entities, a tragic reality requiring urgent attention for effective remedies.  He noted Eritrea’s area of the Horn of Africa and Red Sea region has been inordinately afflicted in the past 25 years by externally instigated, intractable internecine ethnic and clan conflicts, as well as wars among neighbouring countries, which are a “grim reality” in stark contrast to hopes engendered in the early 1990s for regional integration.

Turning to current realities, he noted the depressing calamity of the huge loss of life that COVID‑19 has and continues to incur globally.  “The pandemic has starkly exposed the structural flaws and deficiencies of the prevailing, precarious economic and security ‘global order’,” he said.  The crisis has debunked spurious explanations and narratives peddled in the past to embellish and rationalize that largely dysfunctional order, and “in a rather perverted sense, the pandemic constitutes a wake‑up call; a costly reminder for us to mend our ways.”  He renewed a call for the strengthening and revamping of the marginalized United Nations system whose authority and efficacy have been corroded over the past decades.

KYAW TINT SWE, Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor of Myanmar, said his country has taken a whole‑of‑nation response to COVID‑19, mobilizing volunteers, protecting public health, implementing economic recovery plans and bringing back all citizens and migrant workers in foreign countries who lack access to social protections.  Myanmar’s armed forces declared a ceasefire from 10 May to 31 August - applied in all areas except those where terrorist groups are present and extended to 30 September - and invited all ethnic armed groups to unite to prevent the virus’ spread.  Noting that voting will begin in about one month, he said the Government has put in place a political system that “relies on ballots instead of bullets”.  Yet, it faces continued ethnic armed conflict, and both old and new issues in Rakhine State.  The Government aims to hold negotiations with all ethnic nationalities.  Four sessions of the Union Peace Conference have been convened and a third portion of the Union Accord – which contains federal principles for the future of the Union – has been signed by all participants.  In Rakhine, colonial cross‑border migration and intercommunal violence have sowed mutual mistrust among communities.  The Government set up a ministerial committee to implement recommendations by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, and focused on humanitarian concerns, repatriation, resettlement, reconciliation and development.

Myanmar’s commitment to receive verified returnees remains steadfast and he invited Bangladesh to demonstrate the will to cooperate by adhering to related agreements.  “Pressure tactics will be futile,” he said, noting that Myanmar extended its trilateral agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) until June 2021.  The Judge Advocate General announced on 15 September that a third court martial concerning alleged violations in Chut Pyin and Maung Nu in 2017 will start by year‑end.  The Presidential Office issued three directives to Government officials:  to comply with obligations under the Genocide Convention, to prohibit the destruction or removal of evidence from crime scenes and to denounce hate speech.

ABDULLA SHAHID, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said the country responded quickly to the COVID‑19 pandemic by bolstering its national health‑care system and by implementing measures to minimize economic shock, including the creation of a national task force to build resilience into future action plans.  The Government is working to protect development gains achieved in the past decades.  The pandemic lays bare the asymmetries in the international system, he stated, stressing that small island developing States are disproportionately affected by economic shocks and the digital divide.  Further, such States face immense debt burdens and recent debt service suspensions which are set to end in early 2021 will result in negligible benefits, he said, calling for an extension of debt relief efforts.  The pandemic highlights the importance of international cooperation, he said, adding:  “In the Maldives, without the support of our friends, our bilateral and multilateral partners, we would not be able to continue  weathering this storm.  As we work towards finding a vaccine, our hope is that every person who needs it will have access to it”.

He said the pandemic offers an opportunity to recalibrate approaches to development and stressed that climate change remains a significant threat.  The frequency and severity of weather events is pushing small island developing States to their limits of adaptation, he noted, calling for the realization of the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.  Further, protecting oceans from the harmful impacts of plastic pollution is a clear priority and the Maldives remains committed to protecting 20 per cent of its waters and is working towards the 30 per cent goal outlined by the Global Oceans Alliance.  “It is our shared responsibility to preserve, and sustainably use, the ocean and all of its bounty.  Let us not fail.  Not on our watch!” he said.  Maldives prioritizes the protection of human rights and has withdrawn several reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and is set to ratify the Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances.  He called on the international community to uphold the rights of the Palestinian people and said the Rohingya community continues to endure extreme depravation and hardship.

SRĐAN DARMANOVIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Montenegro, underscored the need to collaboratively develop an effective response to today’s global challenges – from fragmented geopolitical realities to COVID‑19.  “The… pandemic and its multiple, devastating consequences on the lives of people around the world loudly warn and remind us of the importance of international cooperation and solidarity,” he stressed, adding that it is happening against the backdrop of strengthening unilateralism and protectionism.  Montenegro supports multilateralism based on universal values and principles with a world organization at its centre.  The United Nations response and recovery mechanisms have made it possible to support the most vulnerable areas and countries, while its emphasis on the impacts facing the economy, global conflicts and women and children have helped to guide responses.

Expressing support for reforms of the Organization to render it a more effective defender of peace and stability – and allow it to keep pace with new global realities – he said all parts of the world must be represented evenly in its bodies and organs.  He also advocated for stronger conflict prevention more broadly, declaring:  “Responding after the outbreak of a conflict or crisis is often not enough, or it is not timely enough.”  More work is needed to build unbiased and more inclusive societies that offer equal opportunities for all and to protect marginalized and vulnerable groups.  Furthermore, he called for the implementation of relevant international instruments in the field of disarmament and arms control; more synergies and universalization in the area of human rights; and a redoubling of efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  While COVID‑19 has slowed that progress, “it is also an opportunity to draw on good lessons and practices [and] to respond more effectively to possible challenges in the future,” he said.

ISMAIL OULD CHEIKH AHMED, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania, said COVID‑19 has led to the loss of life and paralyzed the global economy, laying bare the weaknesses of current approaches.  He called for pooled efforts to minimize the economic impact, especially in developing countries.  For its part, Mauritania has taken measures to contain the virus and protect the poorest, all the while monitoring local markets to ensure that prices do not rise too much, medicine is delivered at fixed prices and help is extended to poor households.  A drop in GDP and fiscal resources have led to a budget deficit and he called for the cancellation of debt for African countries so they can address the socioeconomic fallout.

He detailed plans to improve infrastructure, stimulate demand, attain food security, support the private sector – both formal and informal – combat desertification and create jobs.  Tireless efforts have been made to combat inequality, exclusion and vulnerability, notably by access to basic services and education and health care.  The Government has worked to consolidate national unity and social cohesion, as well as strengthen the rule of law, good governance and education, he said, underscoring on the latter point that efforts aim to improve the quality and effectiveness of schools in order to meet job market needs.  He also pointed to a broader focus on independence, justice, human rights and consolidating democracy, as well as on freedom of the press, the transparency of political institutions and Parliament’s monitoring role in public affairs.  On the security front, he outlined a strategy to combat terrorism, while also upholding human rights.  Noting that in the Western Sahara, Mauritania’s impartial position remains unchanged, he said “we have excellent relations with all of the parties” and favour a solution achieved through United Nations efforts.  In Mali, where Mauritania plays a mediating role, he urged parties to agree on outstanding issues and return to the constitutional order.  Expressing support for a sovereign Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, agreed in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative, he also backed efforts to forge peace in Libya and Yemen.

SAYYID BADR BIN HAMAD BIN HAMOOD ALBUSAIDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Oman, said the pandemic has imposed immense changes on everyone’s daily lives, and the international community has a human duty to ensure that the resources to fight its spread, in particular the vaccines, are fairly distributed, especially in the least developed places.  Given the related thorny economic challenges, he called on donor nations and institutions to do their utmost to facilitate the process of debt restructuring and pay special attention to helping the most affected countries.  Turning to regional concerns, he said Oman supports the values of tolerance, collective action and peaceful coexistence with all, reiterating support for the legitimate and just demands of the Palestinian people, and the establishment of an independent State of Palestine.  He called on all the parties in Yemen to engage in constructive dialogue to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.  Expressing support for Lebanon and its reconstruction efforts, he called on the international community to help the country grapple with the impact of the recent tragic explosion in the port of Beirut.  Welcoming the ceasefire agreement and other developments in Libya, he expressed hope for a peaceful settlement that would end division and build harmony and unity.

For its part, Oman has taken important steps to restructure and modernize its administrative apparatus, he said.  Its current phase of economic development, within the Oman Vision 2020‑2040, is based on the principles of the Basic Statute of the State and applied across sectors.  Oman has also been an active participant in international and regional fora that produced the Sustainable Development Goals, including by translating commitments into key components of its ninth five‑year development plan.  Investing in youth has been central, he said, underlining the importance of providing them with the capacities and knowledge to ensure their effective participation in the process of growth and development.  Similarly, given the world’s continuous and successive transformations towards scientific and technological advancement, if humanity is to remain the master of technology, ways and means must be found to work together better than before and from one phase to another going forward.

AURÉLIEN AGBENONCI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Benin, said that, in response to the economic damage wrought by the COVID‑19 pandemic, his Government has enacted a vast 200 billion West African CFA francs programme to support smaller businesses and vulnerable people.  He noted that initiatives to address the crisis have kept contamination and death rates low in Benin.  While this is one of most serious crises confronting public health in modern history, it should not cause the international community to lose sight of the need to fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases.  He thereby pointed to renewed multilateralism as the only framework to fight problems including mass poverty, reiterating his call of 2016 for an urgent global programme in that domain.

Noting that multilateralism gave the world the Paris Agreement, he expressed support for Security Council reform to repair the historical injustice to Africa, the only continent not represented with a permanent seat, as well as implementation of the Ezulwini Consensus for two non‑permanent African seats.  He called for a viable Palestinian State living in peace with Israel, and appealed for regularization of relationship between Cuba and the United States.  Benin is committed to leaving the past behind and to rigorous uncompromising commitment by the Government in all sectors and thereby fostering development.  His Government is working to extend access to drinking water and electricity to all citizens, which until 2016 had been considered a luxury and privilege.  He noted Benin is situated in a subregion under stress due to a deteriorating security situation and terrorism, especially in the Sahel.  Expressing solidarity with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Group of 5 for the Sahel (G‑5 Sahel) in the fight against the scourge, he called on the international community to help fight it and stabilize the region.

DENIS RONALDO MONCADA COLINDRES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, said the COVID‑19 pandemic is exacerbating global crises that emerged as the result of an unfair economic system.  “We must reshape the United Nations,” he said, adding that such a transformation is essential for the Organization to be in a position to benefit humankind and not just hegemonic powers.  As the world enters the last decade of action to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, States must pool efforts to counter the effects of the pandemic and other ills that hegemonic powers are inflicting on the world.  Nicaragua will provide stability to Central America, he said, calling for global efforts to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration.

Savage capitalism has brought upon the world the scourge of climate change and illegal coercive measures imposed by the United States on peoples of the world must be immediately lifted, he said.  Interventionist affairs are manifested in the brutal blockade imposed on Cuba, he said, adding that Venezuela also suffers from cowardly attacks waged against it by the “North American empire”.  Emphasizing that the interference by empires in the affairs of others fosters poverty and hinders attainment of the 2030 Agenda, he called on the United Nations to focus on the well‑being of all people and counter efforts to politicize its work.  The UNHCR is acting unfairly with regards to Nicaragua and its reporting is based on flawed methodologies that rely exclusively on reports by opposition actors.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister of Israel, said although the Middle East is not known for good news, he had but two pieces to note.  He hailed the historic agreements signed between Israel, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, not only the first peace agreements his country has signed with an Arab State in a quarter century, but the first time two were announced in one day.  The deals will generate benefits in many sectors, he noted, expressing hope that others will join the “circle of peace” soon.  He said this marked a clear break with the failed policies of the past, as Palestinians had effectively held a veto over those initiatives, making unreasonable demands for a return to 1967 border lines, or telling lies about Jewish ethnic cleansing.  Those demands are “complete non‑starters” for any reasonable Israeli Government.  Pointing to President Donald J. Trump’s move of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem and recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, he noted the expanding circle of peace makes an eventual agreement between Israelis and Palestinians more, not less likely.  He is willing to negotiate with Palestinians based on the Trump plan, to end the conflict once and for all.

Turning to the “greatest enemy in the Middle East”, he said Iran is destabilizing multiple States in the region.  Pointing to the terrible explosion in Beirut’s port that killed 200 and made 250,000 homeless, he said the next explosion could occur in the Lebanese neighbourhood of Jnah.  Hizbullah has a secret arms depot there just a few metres from a gas station and embedded in civilian housing.  He showed slides of Hizbullah weapons and called on the people there to protest the situation.  “I say to the people of Lebanon, Israel means you no harm, but Iran does,” he said.  He commended United States President Donald J. Trump for withdrawing from the flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal.  Iran has violated even temporary measures and will have enough enriched uranium for two nuclear bombs within months.  “There is no question Iran is seeking nuclear weapons,” he stated.

In view of these brazen violations, the Security Council has done absolutely nothing and refuses to see that the Iran nuclear deal fed and funded rather than curbed Iran’s endeavours.  He said Iran has used billions of dollars flowing into its coffers to fuel its campaign of carnage and conquest across the region.  He expressed further praise for President Trump’s application of sanctions on Iran and for taking out Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.  Arabs and Israelis all urge tough action on Iran, he noted, calling on the Security Council to demand that State end its nuclear weapons programme once and for all.  He said he looked forward to announcing more good news from the Middle East.

PEDRO BROLO VILA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, agreed with other speakers that, in the context of the pandemic, “no one will be safe until everyone is safe”.  Underlining his country’s interest in collaborating in the logistical distribution of a future COVID‑19 vaccine, he thanked the United Nations system for its support during the current crisis, which severely affected Guatemala and forced it to enact a state of calamity.  “In the health area, we found an abandoned system, forgotten for many years, compounded now by the effects of the current pandemic,” he said, noting that the Government immediately implemented aggressive recovery plans, renovating existing hospitals and building new ones.  It also passed an Economic Rescue Law for families affected by the pandemic, including a family bond fund and a labour protection bonus, and promoted soft loan programmes to resolve small businesses’ liquidity challenges and avoid foreclosures.

He went on to outline Government efforts to bolster food security and counter malnutrition amid the pandemic, supporting the country’s poorest and most marginalized areas by tackling the root causes of the problem.  Guatemala is a candidate to the World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Board for 2021‑2023 and aims to contribute to those issues at the global level.  Turning to the plight of migrants - many of whom suffer from abuse and unjustified discrimination – he underlined Guatemala’s commitment to their human rights.  Due to its geographical location, his country is one of origin, transit, destination and return.  He advocated for an agreement between the UNHCR, International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to create a viable platform for dialogue and proposals that will allow for better care of returned migrants, as well as for appropriate reform of the United Nations more broadly.

KENNETH DARROUX, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations of Dominica, said the impact of COVID‑19 is redefining human existence, reshaping how the United Nations functions and how all countries to do business.  The impact of COVID‑19 has exacerbated the limitations of small island developing States that already face inherent challenges, including in protecting their citizens.  For its part, Dominica imposed a curfew and closed all ports, education facilities and unessential businesses for three months, steps that aligned with WHO protocols.  A second wave of the virus has drastically raised the stakes.  Countries could lose an entire generation if they do not rise to the occasion.  Dominica will work to ensure that all infected people are treated and cared for, while delivering services to all citizens.

“The task is ours to provide guidance and hope to our populations,” he said, drawing attention to Dominica’s inability to access concessionary financing to handle such exogenous shocks.  He requested assistance for small island States to unlock the funds available for addressing climate change.  Dominica’s national resilience strategy, developed following Hurricane Maria in 2017, has been adapted to a climate resilience plan.  While ambitious, it is also very achievable, and with support from Dominica’s partners, it can provide a pathway for other small islands.  “The situation is dire,” he assured, welcoming any support that could influence the provision of financial assistance in a timely manner.  To be sure, small economies risk being crippled if bank restrictions and inequalities are allowed to continue.  Fiscal and financial resilience is paramount and he called for more adaptable solutions that involve expanding the revenue base of small island developing States.  He saluted Cuba as a model of “genuine internationalism” and embodiment of “being our brother’s keeper”, as it provided humanitarian assistance to more than 40 countries, including Dominica.  He called for an end to the unfair blockade against that country.

OTHMAN JERANDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, delivering a statement on behalf of the President Kaïs Saïed, said the pandemic presents unprecedented social, economic and security challenges.  Highlighting an urgent need for global cooperation and more effective multilateralism, he said nations must work together.  Efforts must be based on people-centred strategies, he said, pledging Tunisia’s commitment to the United Nations and the principles of the Charter.

Turning to several regional and global matters, he said the settlement of the Palestinian question is a priority, being central to restoring international peace and security.  In Libya, the ongoing situation will only worsen with international interference, which will deepen people’s suffering and threaten security.  Welcoming the ceasefire agreement, he reiterated Tunisia’s commitment to helping Libya in advancing peace through a United Nations‑led dialogue.  More broadly, the COVID‑19 pandemic has deepened crises in Africa.  Expressing support for the African Union’s Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative, he said the continent should be free of conflict so it can focus its attention on development.  At the same time, terrorism and violence are increasing and are affecting many States, he said.  Despite counter-terrorism progress, the threat continues, requiring better coordination and an intensified global effort, with particular attention paid to young people.

NAYIB ARMANDO BUKELE, President of El Salvador, recalled that when he addressed the Assembly during its seventy‑fourth session, he stressed the need for its format to change.  Due to the pandemic, the format has indeed changed, but not by much, and the Assembly has become so irrelevant that nobody even talks about how irrelevant it is.  “The world is changing and if you don’t change, you risk becoming obsolete.”  He acknowledged that those might be harsh words, but added that he wants to see the Assembly change so that it can survive and become a great tool for mankind.  Describing the pandemic as one of the greatest crises in modern history, he thanked the United States and Japan for helping to strengthen El Salvador’s response to the coronavirus.  But such assistance has been primarily bilateral and not necessarily thanks to the United Nations system, where there has been a lack of leadership to bring the world together.  The Organization must prepare for the next global threat, he said.

He said that when he was a child “not long ago”, young people imagining the future would think of a multicultural world with flying cars and robots that do chores that humans would rather not do.  Today, however, young people think of the future in terms of wars, natural disasters and dystopian societies.  Yet millions of people are carrying iPhones more powerful than the supercomputers of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, connected to a network with a yet‑to‑be‑fully‑realized potential.  Pointing to the race to develop COVID‑19 vaccines, he said that humanity could resolve many of its problems in a matter of months if it was determined to.

Discussing the situation in his country, he said that El Salvador is on the way to building a first‑world health‑care system while insecurity indicators have decreased dramatically, saving an average of nine Salvadorean lives a day.  “We are working to design and build a model society for the world,” he said, inviting thinkers, designers and doers to be part of the Salvadorean miracle.  “We are a country under construction,” with a ready and willing Government that looks to the future as well as good weather and fair winds all year round.  He went on to say that mankind has the tools to move a little closer to the right direction, “but we must take control of our destiny”.  By working together, it will be possible to shape one of the golden ages of mankind, he added.

PETER CHARLES DAVID, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Labour of Grenada, recommitted his country to the United Nations and the norms of peace, equality, justice, human rights and multilateralism.  COVID‑19 risks stymieing progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda, a risk that is more acute for small island developing States, such as Grenada, given their unique vulnerabilities to climate change and high indebtedness.  “The world is at the juncture where the old reality meets the genuine potential of a new world order,” he said, but only if countries grab this moment through multilateralism.  After projections for an eighth year of growth, Grenada now faces the stark reality of negative growth, triggered largely by drastic revenue declines in tourism, construction and education.

By way of example, he said that revenue collection in July fell 53 per cent from its 2019 level — a decline likely to be replicated across the main revenue‑generating departments — and a “staggering” figure for a small island developing and micro‑State, such as Grenada.  It is using reserves and seeking international help to finance any deficits.  Despite these hurdles, the Government established a COVID‑19 economic support secretariat, as well as seven Cabinet‑approved subcommittees, each responsible for a productive sector:  tourism and citizenship; construction; education; micro- small- and medium‑sized enterprises; agriculture and fisheries; wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing; and e‑commerce/digitalization.  He expressed continued support for Assembly resolution 70/5 and called for ending the United States embargo against Cuba.  “The role Cuba has played globally in helping to fight this global pandemic must be noted and lauded,” he stressed.  “The country’s doctors have been at the forefront of this battle in all regions of the world.”

JEROME X. WALCOTT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Barbados, said the world lost its moral compass as systemic racial injustice, inequality and human rights violations and geopolitical tensions are on the rise.  In the face of mounting power imbalances, including how some States are treated with respect to their debt management, Barbados still values fundamental principles of international cooperation and collective action.  The refusal by those capable to revive struggling economies to implement debt alleviation schemes has caused great hardship.  Small island developing States “labour under onerous debt burdens”, he said, adding that Barbados is trapped in the false construct of middle‑income categorization.  Now is the time for debt forgiveness, he stressed, calling for the use of innovative economic instruments to reverse inequality.

Turning to climate change, he said Barbados has lost over 60 per cent of its coral reefs.   Certain countries provide suggestions on how small island developing States must mitigate climate change, while at the same time acting in a way that severely undermines those efforts.  “The greatest contributors to the climate crisis do not bear the consequences proportionately,” he said, adding that Barbados remains committed to becoming fossil‑fuel free by 2030.  He warned the Assembly that the COVID‑19 pandemic has derailed progress towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and voiced support for the Secretary‑General’s call for debt relief efforts.  Likewise, Barbados supports United Nations calls for the creation of the Liquidity and Sustainability Facility to support African, Latina American and Caribbean States in advancing sustainable development.  He closed by calling on the United Nations to become a nimble organization capable on focusing more on its constituents than on bureaucracy.

LEJEUNE MBELLA MBELLA, Minister for Foreign Relations of Cameroon, said that although nationalism is at times seductive, the world must acknowledge that today’s problems are largely transnational in nature — global warming, migration, terrorism and myriad forms of trafficking among them.  The only way to tackle them is through international cooperation.  There are also new threats emerging and he expressed his ardent hope for a collective focus on the manipulation of public opinion — specifically, the spread of fake news by social networks — which increasingly constitutes a genuine threat to peace.  Speaking on the Sustainable Development Goals, he said Cameroon is working to end poverty, bolster the rule of law and improve the quality of education.  However, he said the road ahead is still long for low‑income countries.  Recalling that more than 70 peacekeeping missions have been deployed to support peace processes — notably in the areas of disarmament, demobilization, stabilization and repatriation, as well as ceasefire monitoring and maintenance of public order — he said Cameroon has been a troop contributor for decades, including to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

He said that peace also embodies access to food and basic services, and he advocated a greater focus on development, outlining Cameroon’s aim to guarantee food security, end poverty, fight discrimination and expand health care access for its people.  However, such efforts have been stymied by Boko Haram in the northwest and southwest regions, where armed gangs terrorize inhabitants.  Rooted in the rule of law, human rights and efforts to end all forms of discrimination and exploitation, Cameroon has organized a wide‑ranging national dialogue to address the causes of the crisis.  These debates have led to the adoption of a law on decentralization, which grants special status to the north‑west and south‑west regions and provides for a recovery and development plan.  As it is difficult for any one country to single‑handedly combat terrorism, he invited all United Nations members to “close ranks” and to fight that scourge wherever it manifests itself.  Africa expects its partners to demonstrate robust solidarity, he assured, a pledge that should be reflected in two permanent seats and two non-permanent seats on the Security Council.

CRAIG J. HAWKE (New Zealand), said interdependence with other nations has never been more evident as the world tackles COVID‑19 requiring the international community to focus on the global pandemic impact.  “We need to invest in and trust each other,” he noted, as developing and distributing a vaccine must be done on an equitable basis.  New Zealand joined the COVAX Facility to ensure vulnerable communities everywhere, including in the Pacific, receive the vaccines they need, he said, encouraging other countries to support “vaccine multilateralism.”  As many small island developing States depend on tourism sectors that have been drastically affected by closed borders, the international community should ensure that appropriate concessional finance is available to mitigate the economic shock.  He said it is time to prioritize tackling the challenge of our generation, climate change, “more real in the Pacific than any other region in the world”.  As rising sea levels threaten many islands, they rely on Member States to make political commitments to protect their future.   Calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, diverting those billions of dollars into transitioning to clean energy generation, he pointed to Wednesday’s United Nations High‑Level Summit on Biodiversity, which is in serious decline worldwide.

KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his Government’s far‑sighted response to the pandemic, focusing on people, means the crisis is under safe and stable control.  State measures now aim to block virus inflow into the country, with all people adhering strictly to anti‑epidemic regulations as the Government will tolerate no slackness until the inflow is eliminated.  Although the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is working to safeguard the Korean Peninsula and region, a nuclear threat remains, while cutting‑edge military hardware including stealth fighters continue to be introduced to the area.  He said the country must possess absolute strength to prevent war, and “we have tightened our belts” in working to guarantee the Peninsula’s peace and security.  He noted the Government is dedicating efforts to economic construction in difficult circumstances, “but we cannot sell off our dignity” for international community assistance.  Great projects are being completed one after another to celebrate the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, including Pyongyang General Hospital.  While “manoeuvres of hostile forces” will continue to impede the country’s advance, its people are working towards the road of prosperity.  Expressing support for multilateralism, he noted the time is gone when one individual country held sway, imposing its will on the world.

ADONIA AYEBARE (Uganda), describing COVID‑19 as “a fearless foe to human life”, said his country’s response prioritized protection.  It developed guidelines and standard operating procedures, later combining systematic testing, tracing, quarantining and treatment with restrictions on movement and contact, and a media campaign.  Strengthening its national health system and targeted decisions have prevented mass COVID‑19 infection.  He called for debt cancellation by multilateral and bilateral creditors.  Turning to development, he said Uganda’s five‑year national plan focuses on environmental protection, governance and industrialization, notably by ending the silo approach to service delivery and enhancing synergies across sectors.  He advocated bold multilateral action on climate change, stressing that Uganda experiences prolonged drought, ice cap melting, flooding, erratic rainfall and landslides.  It will invest in measures to increase access to and consume clean energy.  Calling for greater efforts to strengthen cooperation, he said the question of Western Sahara remains the single issue obstructing the eradication of colonialism in Africa and underscored Uganda’s commitment to equal rights and self‑determination in that regard.  On the security front, Uganda is involved in ‑ and will continue to support peace efforts by ‑ the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), East African Community, International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and the African Union in countries including South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia.  Neutralizing Al‑Shabaab, Boko Haram, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al‑Qaida and the Allied Democratic Forces requires cooperative and firm responses, he added.

KOKOU KPAYEDO (Togo) said that, with the COVID‑19 pandemic, the world is navigating troubled waters, putting multilateralism to the test.  Emphasizing how the pandemic has slowed progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that the international community must act “together, globally and consistently” to overcome the crisis.  While research for a vaccine seems promising, pharmaceutical companies must not sacrifice humanity for economic profit.  Vaccines must be accessible, affordable and not subject to market laws.  He welcomed cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union on COVID‑19 as well as calls for a debt moratorium and debt cancellation.  He discussed Togo’s response to the pandemic, including a $665 million economic solidarity fund.  He also drew attention to its contribution to United Nations peacekeeping missions.  He went on to say that there is no hiding the fact that the Organization faces many challenges, including the spectre of war, which has taken on a new dimension in the Sahel and Central Africa through the presence of non‑State actors and nebulous networks.  Climate change, adverse weather conditions and migratory crises are other issues for which the United Nations must provide bold and lasting responses, he said, urging States to avoid the temptation of turning inwards.

KENNEDY GASTORN (United Republic of Tanzania), detailed his country’s concerted and decisive actions to prevent the spread of COVID‑19, which thus far have led to positive results.  Today, all socioeconomic activities have resumed. He thanked the international financial institutions for providing debt relief, postponing debt payments and offering grants, urging them to devise mechanisms for offering additional resources on unconditional terms, including further debt relief.  Recalling that the United Nations was instrumental in fostering his country’s independence, he said the United Republic of Tanzania now has 2,303 peacekeepers serving in six missions.  COVID‑19 has lowered growth projections from 6.9 per cent to 5.5 per cent but inflation has remained stable at 4.4 per cent, leading the World Bank to upgrade the United Republic of Tanzania to lower‑middle‑income status — five years ahead of schedule.  At the international level, he expressed support for the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration, called for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe and the provision of assistance to Burundi, while pressing the United Nations to accommodate the Southern African Development Community (SADC) position on reconfiguring the Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Closing Remarks

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, said that for the first time in United Nations history, global leaders could not attend the general debate, but that did not prevent Member States from supporting multilateralism.  The fact that leaders chose to address the Assembly reflects the role of this world body, with the vast majority confirming that multilateralism is the most effective system to address global challenges.  Taking note of calls for reform, he welcomed the strong support shown for his call to strengthen multilateralism, as leaders clearly recognized that solutions can only come from taking a multilateral approach, with the United Nations at the centre.

One thing is clear, he said, “we are stronger together.”  This concept, of “ever more united nations”, was voiced by leaders throughout the general debate.  Regarding the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said a disease that respects no borders requires a collective response.  In this vein, he said leaders have asked him to focus on three main issues:  supporting an early warning mechanism, dealing effectively with the crisis and ensuring access to vaccines.  “COVID‑19 is a practice test that exhibits our weaknesses,” he said.  “We must build resilience now for whatever comes tomorrow.”

Welcoming the overwhelming support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said messages were clear that efforts must continue to reach those objectives.  The pandemic has diverted attention and resources, but climate change still represents the greatest threat to humanity.  The pandemic has also affected the security landscape, he said, adding that he will follow up with the Security Council.  Now is the time to fully implement the global ceasefire.  Welcoming steps taken towards nuclear disarmament, he said peace is more than an absence of war.  Achieving consensus on these issues is difficult, he said, but he was ready to work with Member States to foster trust and understanding to overcome differences.

The challenges facing the world are enormous, he continued, but they can be overcome when the world works together.  Action is needed to advance gender equality, he said, anticipating a fruitful high‑level meeting on the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women.  He concluded by saying that during his term as President he intends to involve civil society in meetings throughout the session and thanked Member States and the Secretariat for their work during the general debate.

Right of Reply

The representative of Bangladesh, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, rejected Myanmar’s concocted and misleading statement.  Bangladesh also rejects allegations that it is harbouring terrorists.  Myanmar needs to look in the mirror and consider the inhumane treatment of its minorities.  The Rohingya issue is not a bilateral issue, but Myanmar’s internal problem.  Noting that 1.1 million Rohingya have sought shelter in Bangladesh, she called upon Myanmar to address the real causes that are stopping displaced Rohingya from returning voluntarily.

The representative of Iran rejected the baseless and unfounded allegations made by Israel against his country.  He pointed to the Israeli regime’s violation of the dignity of Palestinians and other Arabs living under occupation, in flagrant violation of international law and disregard for United Nations relations, as well as its continued occupation of the Golan and parts of Lebanon.  He added that nuclear weapons in the hands of that regime pose the greatest threat to regional security.  Israel’s attempts to seek international sympathy by claiming that it is the one under threat is nothing but manipulative propaganda.  Turning to the statement by the United Arab Emirates, he said that the islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa are an inseparable part of Iran.  He added that his country is always ready to talk bilaterally with the United Arab Emirates to address any misunderstandings it might have about the islands.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the three islands are an integral part of his country, which categorically rejects their occupation by Iran.  He called on Iran to respond to the United Arab Emirates’ invitation to peacefully settle the question through negotiations or the International Court of Justice.  He added that the international community must address Iran’s destabilizing conduct and its repeated violation of Security Council resolutions.  He went on to say that his country is participating in the coalition in Yemen at the invitation at that country’s Government, which is confronting Iranian-supported Houthi militia.

The representative of Myanmar said that regrettably, Bangladesh had misled the General Assembly with fabrications.  That State is trying to hamper the Rohingya repatriation process with threats and violence, as extensive media coverage confirms.  He said the presence of Bangladesh in refugee camps itself poses a threat.  His Government fully shares the international community’s concerns about the Rakhine crisis, triggered by terrorist activity in 2016 and 2017, is well aware of the present situation and took initiatives to try to solve it.  Countries must work together in good faith, he stated, but Bangladesh has chosen a different path rather than working bilaterally.  That country’s constant calls for political and economic sanctions on Myanmar will not help solve the problem and the plight of displaced persons, and it is time for Bangladesh to stop demonizing Myanmar.  His country has a consistent policy to maintain friendly relations with all five of its neighbours, including Bangladesh.  He categorically rejected the allegations in the Bangladesh delegation’s statement.

The representative of Azerbaijan said comments by the delegation of Armenia on 26 September in exercise of the right of reply were another failed attempt to mislead the international community.  The definition of the territory of Azerbaijan clearly included Nagorno‑Karabakh, and multiple United Nations resolutions condemned the use of force against his country, invasion of its territories and confirmed the region is included.  The status of the region is unequivocal as internationally recognized Azerbaijan territory under Armenian occupation.  He stated that allegations of so‑called “Armeniaphobia” or hate speech are meant to conceal the motives of the aggressor, terrorist and racist State of region.  On 27 September, Armenian forces initiated intensive fire with large artillery, inflicting numerous civilian and military deaths and infrastructural damage.  “Even hospitals are not spared,” he said.  While countermeasures were taken under the right of self‑defense and in compliance with international law, achievement of peace and security demand first and foremost the unconditional Armenian withdrawal from all Azerbaijan territories.

The representative of Armenia said the baseless Azerbaijan statement is meant to conceal real events.  On 27 September, Azerbaijan forces launched large‑scale attacks along the entire line of contact including the capital, Stepanakert, with strikes killing civilians including two children.  Azerbaijan’s strategic goal is to resolve the conflict through force and it has prepared for it by closing an air corridor despite the lack of threat, launching provocative flights and confiscating civilian trucks for military needs.  Azerbaijan blocked Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors along the line of contact and had begun large-scale military exercises in July and August involving thousands of personnel and heavy equipment.  On 27 September, shortly after the Azerbaijan military offensive, Turkey supported the country, with a Turkish F‑16 fighter jet shooting down an Armenian jet.  While his Government remains ready to support the Secretary‑General’s call for a global ceasefire, Azerbaijani aggression against the people of Armenia and Nagorno‑Karabakh shows they do not concur, violating international law and the core values of humanity.  He emphasized that the right of the people of Artsakh to live in peace and dignity will not be compromised under any circumstances.  Armenia strongly condemns Azerbaijan’s aggression, a most dangerous attempt to start a large‑scale war.

The representative of Iran reiterated that the three islands are an inseparable part of his country’s territory.  He added that no smear campaign can cover up the United Arab Emirates’ use of starvation as a weapon of war in Yemen, he added.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates reiterated that the three islands are Emirati islands under occupation.  He added that Iran is in violation of the United Nations arms embargo on Yemen, and that the United Arab Emirates is supporting Yemen and its people through humanitarian assistance.

The representative of Yemen asked how Iran could dare to speak about the situation in his country.  It is Iran that is engaging in destabilizing activities, in violation of Security Council sanctions, as part of its expansionist policy across the region, he stated.

Action

The Assembly then adopted a decision titled, High‑level meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations (document A/75/L.2).  By its terms, the Assembly decided — without setting a precedent — that entities and organizations having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the work of the General Assembly, other than the European Union, can each submit a pre‑recorded statement of their high officials, which will be played in the General Assembly Hall during the high‑level meeting to commemorate the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations.

By other terms, it decided that, in addition to the verbatim records of the high‑level meeting, the Assembly President will circulate a compilation document of the statements delivered by observers.

For information media. Not an official record.