Global Leaders Call for Vaccine Equity, Inclusive Multilateralism to Alleviate Human Suffering, Close Gap between Rich, Poor
Secretary-General António Guterres issued a wake-up call that the world is on the edge of an abyss and “moving in the wrong direction”, as he called on leaders gathered for the annual General Assembly high-level debate today to urgently restore trust and act in unison to tackle myriad challenges.
“We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes,” Mr. Guterres warned, addressing an Assembly Hall slightly more populated than a year ago, when the sudden and swift onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had all but halted in-person gatherings at United Nations Headquarters. Coupled with the climate emergency, upheaval in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and beyond, a surge of mistrust and science under assault, solidarity is missing “just when we need it most”, he stressed.
While most wealthier countries are vaccinated against coronavirus, more than 90 per cent of Africans are awaiting their first dose — “a moral indictment of the state of our world”, he exclaimed, warning that people may lose faith not only in their Governments but in the very principles underpinning the United Nations. “Promises, after all, are worthless if people do not see results,” he attested.
In charting a path to a brighter future, he urged Governments to surmount the obstacles to peace, including in Myanmar, the Sahel and Yemen, and beyond to Libya, Syria, Israel and Palestine. He called for creating trust between the global North and South on the issue of climate and for closing the gap between rich and poor by ending the pandemic through a doubling of vaccine production, guaranteeing that doses reach 70 per cent of the world’s peoples in the first half of 2022. “Let us restore trust,” he declared.
Echoing those calls, newly sworn in President of the General Assembly Abdulla Shahid (Maldives) praised the global collaboration among scientists and researchers that led to the development of multiple vaccines for COVID-19. The roll-out was the largest in the history of humankind, a monumental undertaking for which the international community should be proud. Yet, political support for tackling the virus was still often found lacking.
During the seventy-sixth session, the Assembly will prioritize the issue of vaccine equity and addressing the obstacles to distribution, he said. It will hold a series of events ahead of the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), while maintaining focus on human rights, United Nations reform and better engagement with civil society.
In the ensuing general debate, 35 Heads of State from around the world addressed the Assembly in person and through pre-recorded statements, championing the calls for unity and hope and cautioning against rash and arbitrary decision-making.
“We are not seeking a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs,” said Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States. Detailing the ways his country intends to work with its partners and allies, he said it is devoting resources to ending the pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, managing shifts in global power dynamics, shaping vital issues around trade, cyber and emerging technologies and facing the threat of terrorism. It is prepared to return to full compliance in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action if Iran does likewise.
Taking a hesitant view of that position, Iran’s President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi pointed to the 6 January attack on the United States Congress and images of Afghans falling from United States planes in August, stressing that from the Capitol to Kabul, one message is clear: “The United States hegemonic system has no credibility.” He called sanctions against medicine during a pandemic a crime against humanity, enumerating the many ways United States influence in the region has fueled human suffering. Stressing that it has not upheld its nuclear commitments, nor its pledge to lift sanctions, he said Iran seeks large-scale political and economic convergence with the rest of the world.
For its part, “China has never and will never invade or bully others or seek hegemony,” said Xi Jinping, President of China. He underscored the need to strengthen solidarity and to promote mutual respect and win-win cooperation in conducing international relations. “Democracy is not a special right reserved to an individual country, but a right for the people of all countries to enjoy,” he said, calling on States to practice true multilateralism.
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, said fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the international system like never before. “We can and must do more to speed up vaccine distribution in Africa; doing so benefits the entire world,” he said. He added that the world is seriously off track with the Sustainable Development Goals. Nations were already behind schedule before the pandemic hit, but now there is increased attention on figuring out how to catch up. That sense of urgency must be converted into durable political commitments, with climate change mitigation at the heart of development efforts, he said.
Rodrigo Roa Duterte, President of the Philippines, warned that the world’s future will likely be one of inequality with no hope of ever succeeding in closing the gap between rich and poor. “We have to reverse course,” he said, stressing that only inclusive multilateralism, based on fairness and respect, can address that dilemma. On the pandemic, he said that rich countries are hoarding vaccines, leaving poor nations to wait for trickles. “The pandemic will not end unless the virus is defeated everywhere, and vaccines are key to achieving this.”
Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, said the word “solidarity” did not refer exclusively to the pandemic, but also included the right to self-determination and to democratic governance. Indeed, the pandemic has blurred attention paid to multiple misfortunes plaguing such countries as Belarus, Libya, Syria and Ukraine. Noting that the pandemic has blurred the fight against climate change, he asked: “Do we, the rich North, pass the test of solidarity, or do we merely cater to our own statistics by relocating production to the poorer countries of the South where least environment friendly technologies are applied, and then those countries are blamed for contaminating the planet?”
Jair Messias Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, said that his country is a different from the one portrayed in newspapers or seen on television. “Brazil has a President who believes in God, respects the Constitution, values family and is loyal to its people.” He emphasized the importance of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in tandem with unemployment, adding that almost 90 per cent of Brazil’s adult population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine. He stressed, however, that his Government opposes the idea of vaccine passports.
Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President of Egypt, called for a just, lasting and comprehensive Middle East peace solution, with a Palestinian State along the 1967 border and East Jerusalem as its capital. The international community must help improve Palestinian living conditions, he said, adding that there is no alternative to the inclusive nation-State when tackling the region’s many challenges. As multilateralism is the only refuge from escalating conflicts, “let us arm ourselves not with the logic of force, but the force of logic,” he said.
Also speaking today were the Presidents of Maldives, Colombia, Qatar, Slovakia, Portugal, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chile, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Switzerland, Croatia, Peru, Turkmenistan, Finland, Argentina, Romania, Palau, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Latvia, Bulgaria, Zambia, Central African Republic and Somalia.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 September, for a high-level meeting the commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and to resume, at 11 a.m., its general debate.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, opened the seventy-sixth session with a wake-up call. “We are on the edge of an abyss — and moving in the wrong direction,” he warned, stressing that societies have never been more threatened — or divided. “We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes,” from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has supersized inequalities, to the climate crisis, to upheaval in countries spanning Afghanistan to Ethiopia to Yemen, and misinformation polarizing people and societies alike. Human rights are under fire and economic lifelines coming “too little and too late” — if at all.
And while most of the wealthier world is vaccinated, more than 90 per cent of Africans are still waiting for their first dose. “This is a moral indictment of the state of our world,” he said. “We are getting an F in Ethics.” He called the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report a “code red” for humanity, citing scorching temperatures, biodiversity loss and climate-related disasters at every turn. Instead of humility in the face of such epic challenges, hubris prevails, he said, cautioning that people may lose faith not only in their Governments, but in the values that have animated the work of the United Nations for over 75 years: peace, human rights, dignity for all, equality, justice and solidarity. “Promises, after all, are worthless if people do not see results.”
He went on to stress that failure to deliver creates space for humanity’s darkest impulses, fuelling conspiracy theories, cultural supremacy, ideological dominance and violent misogyny. “We face a moment of truth.” He called on Governments to deliver, restore trust and inspire hope, drawing attention to his Our Common Agenda report, which analyses the state of global affairs and offers 90 recommendations for taking on the challenges. Describing six great divides, he turned first to the “peace divide”, stressing that peace and stability remain a distant dream for far too many, stretching beyond Afghanistan and Ethiopia, to Myanmar, the Sahel, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Israel and Palestine.
He said military coups are back, due largely to a lack of unity among the international community. A sense of impunity is taking hold. He expressed fear that the world is creeping towards two sets of economic, trade, financial and technology rules — and ultimately — different military and geopolitical strategies. He described such a scenario as far less predictable — and far more dangerous — than the cold war, calling instead for dialogue, investment in prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and progress on nuclear disarmament and counter-terrorism, with all efforts anchored in respect for human rights.
To bridge the climate divide, he called for creating trust between the global North and South, with countries doing their utmost in the areas of mitigation, by committing to carbon neutrality by mid-century, finance — with developing nations seeing the promised $100 billion a year — and adaptation, with developed countries living up to their pledges to help developing nations build resilience. “Do not wait for others to make the first move,” he said. “Do your part.”
Bridging the gap between rich and poor starts by ending the pandemic for everyone, everywhere, he continued. A global vaccination plan is needed to double vaccine production and ensure that vaccines reach 70 per cent of the global population in the first half of 2022. Noting that advanced economies are investing nearly 28 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) into economic recovery, he said that in sub-Saharan Africa, cumulative economic growth per capita over the next five years will be 75 per cent less than the rest of the world. The Debt Service Suspension Initiative therefore must be extended until 2022 and available to all highly indebted and middle-income countries requesting it. “Countries should not have to choose between servicing debt and servicing their people,” he emphasized, calling as well for reform of national tax systems and the end of tax evasion, money-laundering and illicit financial flows.
He went on to stress that bridging the gender divide would be a game changer for humanity, as societies with equal representation are more stable and peaceful, boasting better health systems and more vibrant economies. “We must urgently transform our male-dominated world and shift the balance of power to solve the most challenging problems of our age,” he said. He called for more women leaders in parliaments, cabinets and boardrooms, and urged Governments, corporations and institutions to set benchmarks and quotas, creating gender parity from the leadership down.
He said restoring trust also means bridging the digital divide, as half of humanity lacks access to the Internet. He called for connecting everyone by 2030, a vision laid out in his Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, and pointed to the growing reach of digital platforms, as well as the use — and abuse — of data. While much is unknown about how information has been collected, by whom or for what purposes, it often is used to boost corporate profits. “Our behaviour patterns are being commodified and sold like futures contracts,” he said. And while autonomous weapons can kill people without human interference, there is no consensus on how to regulate these technologies, which he said should be banned.
Finally, he called for bridging the divide among generations, noting that the world will need the talents and ideas of the estimated 10.9 billion people born by century’s end. Opportunities for today’s 1.8 billion young people also must be expanded. As such, he will appoint a Special Envoy for Future Generations and create the United Nations Youth Office. “Young people need a vision of hope,” he said, as 60 per cent of future voters feel betrayed by their Governments. Calling interdependence “the logic” of the twenty-first century and the United Nations its “lodestar”, he said now is the moment to reignite multilateralism. “Let us restore trust.”
ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, recalling the international community’s achievements in the past two years, praised the worldwide collaboration of scientists and researchers to develop multiple viable vaccines for COVID-19. The vaccine roll-out was the largest in the history of humankind, a huge undertaking of which the international community should be proud. Recalling the Secretary‑General’s Our Common Agenda report and his discussions with world leaders, he emphasized that nations want to find solutions to collective challenges such as fragility, conflict, COVID-19 and climate change.
However, he emphasized that more should be done. Political support was often lacking to address the myriad issues facing the world and humankind was at a turning point. COVID-19 may have been a tragedy, but it was also a warning of the perils the world would face if countries avoided making the hard but necessary choices. Nonetheless, he believed in the power of humanity to overcome these challenges, he stated.
During the seventy-sixth session, the General Assembly was directing its efforts on five areas, he continued. Vaccine equity was the priority, with a focus on addressing practical obstacles for vaccine distribution. Longer-term recovery from COVID-19 incorporating better, stronger, greener and bluer strategies would also be addressed. The climate crisis remained a top priority with a series of events on climate action being planned, including one leading to the upcoming twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) to build ambition.
The General Assembly was also going to hold an event on other major environmental efforts on the ocean, desertification and biodiversity, he continued, adding that human rights was the fourth area of focus for the General Assembly. United Nations reform and revitalization must continue and would remain a priority for the General Assembly, he underscored. One of his first actions in this regard would aim at better engagement with civil society organizations, including bringing more youth on board, such as the Youth Fellowship Programme.
JAIR MESSIAS BOLSONARO, President of Brazil, said his country is a different from the one portrayed in newspapers or seen on television. Outlining the changes Brazil has undergone since his administration took office in January 2019, he declared that there has been not a single case of corruption in the past 2 years and 8 months. “Brazil has a President who believes in God, respects the Constitution, values family and is loyal to its people.” State-owned enterprises, which once incurred billions of dollars in losses, are now lucrative, he said. As for Brazil’s public-private partnership programme, he reported that $100 billion in new investments were contracted and $23 billion were collected in concessions.
On the infrastructure front, Brazil auctioned 34 airports and 29 port terminals to the private sector in 2021 and has more than $6 billion in private contracts for new railroads. As a result, there is less fossil‑fuel consumption and a decrease in the operational costs associated with doing business in Brazil, especially in relation to food production, he said. Brazil’s modern and sustainable low-carbon agriculture feeds more than 1 billion people around the world and takes up only 8 per cent of its national territory.
Turning to environmental matters, he declared that no other country in the world has such a comprehensive environmental legislation. In the Amazon biome alone, 84 per cent of the forest is intact, harbouring the greatest biodiversity on the planet. Deforestation was reduced by 32 per cent in August 2021 compared to August 2020. Moreover, Brazil is an example in energy generation, with 83 per cent coming from renewable sources. He went on to report that Brazil ratified the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance and said that 14 per cent of its national territory, over 110 million hectares, is designated for reservation for indigenous people.
Brazil welcomes refugees, he said, citing his Government’s “Operation Welcome” which has already received 400,000 Venezuelans displaced by the severe economic and political crisis there. Furthermore, Brazil will grant humanitarian visas to Afghan refugees, specifically Christians, women, children and judges.
As for combating COVID-19, he emphasized the importance of addressing the virus and unemployment in a simultaneous manner and with equal responsibility. Brazil granted an emergency relief compensation of $800 each for 68 million people in 2020 and recorded approximately 1.8 million new jobs created during the first seven months of 2021. In addition, Brazil distributed more than 260 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and more than 140 million Brazilians, representing almost 90 per cent of the adult population, have received at least the first dose. While his Government supports vaccination efforts, Brazil is against a sanitary passport or any vaccine-related obligation, he said.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, President of the United States, said the Assembly meets at a moment of great pain and extraordinary possibility, mourning the more than 4.5 million lives taken by COVID-19, a reminder that a shared future will hinge on the ability to recognize a common humanity and to act together. “This is the clear and urgent choice we face” at the dawn of what must be a decisive decade. He questioned whether nations would work to defeat COVID-19 everywhere or fail to harness the tools at their disposal; whether they would meet the climate challenge or suffer the merciless march of more extreme weather. Would they uphold the human rights under which “nations in common cause” had formed the United Nations, he asked, or allow its core principles be trampled and twisted in pursuit of naked political power. “We stand at an inflection point in history,” he said.
For its part, he said that the United States is devoting resources to end the pandemic, tackle the climate crisis, manage the shifts in global power dynamics, shape the world role on the vital issues of trade, cyber‑ and emerging technologies, and face the threat of terrorism. Having ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan, it is opening a new era of “relentless diplomacy”, using its development aid to renew and defend democracy, proving that “Government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver”. During his tenure, the United States has prioritized the rebuilding of alliances, reaffirmed its Article 5 commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and is working with its allies on new strategic concept to tackle future threats. It has renewed its engagement with the European Union, elevated the Quad partnership (with Australia, India and Japan), and is working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the African Union and the Organization of American States (OAS) to foster better health and economic outcomes.
“We are back at the table in international forums, especially at the United Nations,” he said, re‑engaging at the World Health Organization (WHO) and having rejoined the Paris Agreement on climate change. The United States will defend itself and its allies, with force, if necessary, but only with the informed consent of its people, and where possible, in partnership with its allies. He called for the creation of a mechanism to finance global health security and for a global health threat council, armed with tools to monitor and identify emerging pandemics, noting that the United States has provided $15 billion to the global COVID-19 response and shipped more than 160 million vaccine doses. Turning to climate change, he said that to keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C, every nation must bring its highest ambitions to COP26. Citing a new national goal to reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions by 50 to 52 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, towards achieving net‑zero emissions by 2050, he said his office has doubled public financing to help developing nations address the climate crisis and will work with the United States Congress to double that number again, including for adaptation.
He went on stress that the United States will work to ensure that advances in biocomputing, quantum computing, 5G and artificial intelligence are used to lift people up, rather than suppress dissent or target minority communities. It will pursue new rules for global trade and economic growth, working to level the playing field, and ensure that the benefits of globalization are shared broadly. It will uphold long‑standing rules in place for decades: freedom of navigation, adherence to international law, support for arms control and enhanced transparency. “We are not seeking a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs,” he asserted. His country is committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, he said, and working with the P5+1 to engage Iran diplomatically and return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, prepared to return to full compliance if Iran does likewise. He expressed support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. On terrorism, he said those who commit terrorist acts will find a determined enemy in the United States, noting that his country is more resilient in its ability to repel threats than in 2001.
He called corruption “nothing less than a national security threat”, pointing out that people have taken to the streets in every region, demanding that Governments meet their needs and protect their rights. “As leaders it is our duty to answer that call,” he said. He closed by underscoring unequivocal support for an independent Jewish State, pointing to the two-State solution as the best path forward. He drew attention to the Security Council statement outlining support for Afghans and laying out human rights expectations for the Taliban. He condemned the targeting of racial, ethnic and religious minorities, whether in Xinjiang, northern Ethiopia or elsewhere, and called on all to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex communities, including in Chechnya and Cameroon. While authoritarians may seek to proclaim the end of democracy, the truth is that “the democratic world is everywhere”, he said, living in anti-corruption activists, human rights defenders, journalists, peace protesters and those on the front lines in Belarus, “Burma” and Venezuela. It lives in the brave women of Sudan who pushed a genocidal dictator from power, in the proud Moldovans who hope to fight graft and in the young people of Zambia. “This is moment where we must prove ourselves the equals of those who come before us […] who built the United Nations, broke the cycle of war”, and laid foundation for seven decades of relative peace.
IBRAHIM MOHAMED SOLIH, President of Maldives, expressed concern that COVID‑19 has pushed achievements and successes back years. “From our small island nations to the Powers spanning continents, the consequences of COVID-19 have been the same,” he said, calling States to work together in solidarity.
Pointing out the catastrophic outcome caused by the coronavirus on his country, whose economy relies on tourism and imports, he said: “Tourists stopped arriving. Foreign currency receipts dropped. Businesses went under. The lockdown hindered social well-being. It set back years of schooling for our beloved children.” With measures taken, “we were able to tackle the pandemic,” he continued, stating that his Government has vaccinated 95 per cent of all school children and 85 per cent of all residents, and reopened schools, business, borders and resorts.
On global warming, citing a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he noted that the past five years have been the hottest ever recorded. The planet has become 1.1°C warmer. “The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C is a death sentence for the Maldives,” he said, adding that, if the current trend continues unabated, Maldivians, as well as those on other island States, would face a plight of “existential threat”. While calling upon the world’s wealthy nations to help smaller nations in the form of capacity-building, technology transfer and financial resources, he said that his country has put forward an ambitious plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, he said.
Noting that Maldives is not immune from the threat of terrorism and extremism, recalling the deadly attacked it faced on 6 May, he condemned terrorism in all its forms and reiterated his Government’s steadfast commitment to address the scourge together with the international community.
He further reaffirmed his country’s solidarity with the Palestinian people, and that it will continue to fight for the full recognition of an independent Palestinian State. As a neighbour in the wider South Asia region, Maldives is concerned about the long-term peace and stability of Afghanistan, he said, calling on all actors to ensure the safety of the people, the protection and realization of the rights of women and girls, and that steps are taken to form an inclusive and representative Government for its people.
IVÁN DUQUE MÁRQUEZ, President of Colombia, observed that the pandemic has exposed and deepened divides between nations, particularly in terms of vaccination policies, with some States ordering more than enough doses for their populations — including plans for third booster shots — while other countries have yet to receive one dose. Colombia confronted the pandemic on three fronts: health, caring for vulnerable citizens and reopening the economy. It aims to provide vaccines to cover 70 per cent of Colombian citizens and is part of the COVAX alliance. Calling on the international community to make progress on global public health, he warned that if delays in the fair distribution of vaccines continue, virus variants will flourish. “Global herd immunity requires solidarity.”
To support its most vulnerable citizens, Colombia implemented the most ambitious social agenda in its history, he said. It will continue to provide an emergency allowance income to eligible citizens until December 2022 and has supplied direct financial support to 25 per cent of its population. In addition, the Government established an employment subsidy that protects workers. Such achievements are part of an effort at fiscal responsibility which will allow Colombia to service its debt, reduce the deficit and stabilize public financing. As for private, public and private-public investment, the country has seen its best growth quarter in a century and is on track to 7 per cent growth in 2021. Such economic recovery is the best way to address the pandemic crisis and get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said.
Turning to the international debt crisis, he urged the international community to achieve a global consensus, led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to set new criteria in the post-COVID recovery period for developing countries. If such measures are not taken, the crisis will further increase setbacks and global recession effects. As for the global climate crisis, he pointed out that Colombia only represents 0.6 per cent of global emissions but is among the most affected by climate change. In that context, his country is going to the Glasgow Climate Change Conference with a commitment to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Colombia places special importance on generating renewable energy to increase capacity and ensure zero deforestation by 2030, he said. To support those efforts, he suggested establishing a rule that allows expenses used towards addressing structural climate change be matched against debt structures. The Latin American and the Caribbean region needs an increase in green funding, he emphasized.
The crisis in Venezuela represents the worst migration crisis in the world right now, he went on, reporting that Colombia is working to provide temporary protection status to Venezuelan migrants, an effort that requires disbursements from the international community, as agreed on during the donor conferences. Moreover, a solution to the conflict in Venezuela will only be found through immediate presidential elections, he stressed, cautioning that any outcome that perpetuates the dictatorship will exacerbate the disaster there.
For its part, Colombia is working on peacebuilding within the law, he said, citing the Government’s agreement with FARC [the People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force] that continues to progress and allows for reintegration of former combatants. Today, Colombia enjoys the lowest rates of homicides and kidnapping in decades. Young people, having been hit hard by the pandemic, lead the great debates on climate action, he said. As such, Colombia signed a youth pact that will create genuine policy change that will directly benefit them. The newly established Municipal Youth Councils will validate the views of young citizens, he said. In 2021, vaccination in Colombia is moving forward and the economy is reopening. Colombia is committed to “reparation and not repetition”.
SHEIKH TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL-THANI, Amir of the State of Qatar, affirmed his country’s commitments in emphasizing vaccine equality, accessibility and treatment for all and the need to combat fake news, conspiracy theories and unprecedented scepticism about the feasibility of vaccines. Qatar has taken a balanced and effective approach in addressing the pandemic and its impacts and has continued to provide medical supplies and vaccines for the most vulnerable groups and the countries in need in partnership with international organizations, he said.
Noting that the Middle East region has been, in large part, a source of the burdens and challenges faced by the United Nations, he emphasized his country’s commitment to settle differences through constructive dialogue in the Gulf region, including the disagreements and differences in viewpoints with Iran. This also applied to the matter of returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran. Pointing to numerous Israeli violations in the occupied East Jerusalem, he also called on the international community to take responsibility for achieving a comprehensive and just peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue, ending the occupation of Arab territory and finding a just solution to the refugee issue.
Turning to Afghanistan, he said that following the withdrawal of the American forces, the responsibility laid first with the Afghan people with all its factions, and then second with the international community to achieve a comprehensive political settlement. In this regard, his country spared no effort in helping to evacuate thousands of individuals and families of various nationalities during the past weeks. He also added that it was critical for all parties to maintain the tangible gains achieved through the Doha Declaration. “The issue in Afghanistan is not a matter of victory or defeat but rather an issue of failure to impose a political system from outside,” he noted.
He further underscored that the Syria issue should not be neglected, particularly with the escalation of fighting in Dara’a and other areas. Regarding the Libyan issue, he expressed his “cautious positivism” towards the progress witnessed during the past year, calling for the successful holding of elections, among other matters. On Yemen, he affirmed Qatar’s firm position that the only solution to this crisis was negotiation between the Yemeni parties.
Marking the fiftieth anniversary of Qatar joining the United Nations on 21 September 1971, he said he looked forward to the inauguration of the United Nations House in Doha soon. He also emphasized Qatar’s participation in the global efforts to combat terrorism, calling on the United Nations to take lead in preventing the misuse of technology and regularizing cybersecurity according to international law.
ZUZANA ČAPUTOVÁ, President of Slovakia, observed that the world was in a much better place than the previous year. However, although scientists succeeded in developing vaccines that offered a clear path out of the pandemic, she warned that “the politics are still failing”. Spotlighting deep disparities in the distribution of 5 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to date — with 75 per cent of them going to just 10 countries — she cautioned: “Vaccine egoism will only delay the pandemic’s end and lend time to new more lethal mutations.” Solidarity must be the world’s binding principle, not an option.
Her country will continue its support to the global COVAX Facility, she continued. Still, even as the world closes in on the goal of ending the COVID-19 pandemic, it must not rush back into business as usual. “Our memory of how things were must be complemented by our reflection on whether they were right,” she said. It was urgent to save the planet from the climate crisis, she stressed, recalling that the world has waited so long that many options available to previous generations had run out. The findings of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change might be shocking, but they were merely stating the facts. The international community was able to strike a deal on fair global taxation in fewer than six months. Therefore, the same must be done to prevent global carbon leakage. The upcoming COP26 must set the pace for a much swifter adaptation and radical emissions cuts.
To that end, she pledged that Slovakia will reduce its emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 and become climate neutral by 2050, along with the rest of the European Union. By 2023, coal will no longer be used to produce electricity and heat. Furthermore, in the coming years, Slovakia will spend almost 6 per cent of its GDP on economic recovery. One third of that amount will go into the country’s green transition. Her country was committed to action and sharing lessons learned with other nations. Saving the planet also required upholding a rules-based international order and the rule of law — both at home and abroad. Violations of those rules endangered everyone, “not only those directly affected in Ukraine, Syria, Myanmar or the Sahel region”, she emphasized.
Urging countries to make their own democracies more resilient while supporting those around the world who are demanding their basic rights — including the freedom of speech or assembly — she pointed out that, in Belarus, 650 people were recently prosecuted on political grounds. Similar challenges exist in occupied Crimea, Venezuela, Russian Federation and China’s Xinjiang Province. Meanwhile, developments and lessons learned in Afghanistan must remain high on the international agenda. The global community must provide humanitarian assistance to that country’s population, 40 per cent of whom face acute food insecurity, as well as protect the legitimate rights of Afghan women and girls.
MARCELO REBELO DE SOUSA, President of Portugal, expressed his support for the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reform of the United Nations and a people-centred priority agenda. “The pandemic, the resulting economic and social crises, and the recent developments in Afghanistan confront us with evidence that we cannot and must not ignore,” he stressed. Governance of today’s multipolar world required a strong commitment to multilateralism, as the planet’s emerging challenges have gone beyond borders and have necessitated joint responses.
“Whenever we hesitate on multilateralism, whenever we question international law and the role of international organizations, we fail,” he continued. Reforms of the United Nations system were needed, particularly in management, peace and security and development, as well as in the makeup of the Security Council, with an African presence, Brazil and India installed among the organ’s permanent members. He warned that affirming the role of the United Nations while struggling with such reforms and denying the Organization resources would only weaken multilateralism and its ability to resolve crises, with negative effects for everyone.
Underscoring Portugal’s continued support for the 2030 Agenda and for relief for the external debt of the world’s most vulnerable countries, he highlighted his country’s support for the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration as a "champion country", as well as for the drafting of an International Treaty on Pandemics. In addition, in 2022, Portugal, together with Kenya, was going to host the second United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon. Among other international support, Portugal also participated in peacekeeping operations, the European Union-Africa dialogue, international action for the stabilization of the Sahel, and maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Stressing that Portugal has never changed course in its strong multilateral engagement, he emphasized that the international community should continue to place its trust in the country, including by giving it a term on the Security Council in 2026. The world’s most pressing concerns — including climate change, pandemics, economic and social crises, war and insecurity, migration and refugees — only confirm that isolationism, protectionism, unilateralism, intolerance, populism and xenophobia inevitably led to dead ends. Twenty years after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, six years after the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed and a year and a half into the pandemic, world leaders can no longer be tempted to forget, stall or waste time, he stated.
SADYR ZHAPAROV, President of Kyrgyzstan, said the establishment of democracy for the development of statehood was the main achievements of his country over the course of its 30 years of independence. “We will remain steadfast on the democratic path,” he said, further urging all Member States to support the country’s candidacy for the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2023‑2025 term and for a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the 2027‑2028 term.
Turning to his country’s relations with its neighbours, he noted that Kyrgyzstan promoted equal dialogue, mutually acceptable cooperation and advocated for addressing all disagreements through negotiations alone. Considering that his country and its neighbours would celebrate a 30-year anniversary of joining the United Nations in 2022, he proposed holding a Central Asia–United Nations summit to take stock of the mutual cooperation and map out joint plans for the future development and security of Central Asia.
Expressing concerns about the recent events in Afghanistan, he noted that the question of security in Central Asia was at the forefront. “We hope for the earliest possible restoration of social and political stability and law and order in Afghanistan,” he said, offering to temporarily relocate evacuated United Nations institutions to Bishkek and to provide higher education opportunities for 500 Afghan students. In the meantime, his Government continued carrying out comprehensive work to combat terrorism and extremism in line with the United Nations global counter-terrorism framework. He further called upon Member States to step up efforts to combat transnational organized crime.
On the pandemic, he said that Kyrgyzstan’s vaccination campaign was well under way. However, financial resources had to be rechannelled from the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to fight the wave of COVID-19 and to service the external debt.
As a mountainous country, Kyrgyzstan had prioritized climate change adaptation, he continued. Outlining the importance to protecting and enhancing its mountain forest areas, he said that Kyrgyzstan would come forward with the development and adoption under the auspices of the United Nations of a special targeted programme on preservation and restoration of mountain forests.
In the meanwhile, his country would strive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, including through the introduction of carbon-free energy sources such as hydroelectricity, he said. “Access to modern, environmentally green and inexpensive energy‑saving services in developing countries is of an extreme importance to the achievement of the development goals,” he stressed, noting that his country counted on the support and assistance from the world community, the United Nations and international financial institutions in solving the problems of ecosystems and ecologies of mountainous and landlocked countries.
GITANAS NAUSĖDA, President of Lithuania, noted that 2021 marked his country’s thirtieth anniversary as a United Nations Member State. He recalled that, in 1992, the world united at the United Nations in favour of a complete withdrawal of foreign military forces from Baltic States, in a “powerful manifestation of global solidarity” of the type that is still needed today. Recent years have shown that no country can address emerging challenges alone, he said, noting that in the struggle against the pandemic “the fight is not over”. The way forward runs through the widespread use of safe vaccines, provided through a global mechanism that leaves no one out. Voicing concern about a rapidly spreading “dangerous infodemic”, he praised the United Nations for its efforts in fighting misinformation and disinformation and called for a holistic approach to get better in exposing these threats.
Meanwhile, he cited the deteriorating security situation in many parts of the world, which are closely linked to rising authoritarianism and crackdowns on political opposition, free media and civil society. “We refuse to accept such behaviour as the new normal,” he stressed. Deploring efforts by the Russian Federation to exert pressure on Lithuanian judges and prosecutors seeking to investigate crimes committed by occupying forces in the 1990s, he went on to express support for the genuine protest movement that followed a “rigged” recent presidential election in Belarus, as well as the hijacking and forced landing of a RyanAir flight in May, in clear violation of international law. “Such actions should be treated as an act of State-sponsored terrorism,” he stressed.
He further went on to call for efforts to prevent countries from using irregular migration as a weapon to put pressure on other States. “People should not be used as tools,” he emphasized, also drawing attention to commercial exploitation of an unsafe nuclear power plant close to the Belarusian border with Lithuania. Meanwhile, the world is still seeing the Russian Federation’s violations in Ukraine, he said, urging the global community to pursue a policy of non-recognition of Moscow’s occupation of Crimea and calling for the establishment of an International Crimean Platform.
Spotlighting several other frozen conflicts, he declared: “We must show restraint on international matters and implement our obligations and commitments.” International and regional treaties remain crucial, and the principles of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, should prevail in the face of new global challenges. Noting that an effective Security Council is required to protect the multilateral system, he strongly supported the initiative to limit the use of the veto in cases of genocide, war crimes and other atrocity crimes. As it runs for a seat on the Human Rights Council in 2022-2024, Lithuania would be paying special attention to the situation of human rights defenders, as well as the rights of the child, persons with disabilities and women and girls in conflict areas.
Turning to the threat posed by climate change, he echoed calls of the Secretary-General “for urgent and bold steps to address the triple crisis of climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution that are destroying the planet”. Against that backdrop, States should come to the upcoming COP26 prepared with strong and ambitious proposals, he said, outlining Lithuania’s own target of reducing carbon emissions by 70 per cent and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
SHAVKAT MIRZIYOYEV, President of Uzbekistan, emphasized that humanity was at a turning point in its path to development, and that the nature of international relations was changing dramatically. He emphasized that transnational threats to peace, security, sustainable development, climate change and mass migration flows reinforced the need for the role of the United Nations. He supported the United Nations approach that ensures equal and fair access to vaccines based on the principle that “no one should be left behind”. Expressing his appreciation to foreign partners for providing assistance in the framework of the COVAX global platform, he said that strengthening of the World Health Organization (WHO) mandate should be pursued to effectively combat the pandemic. The code of voluntary commitments of States, which was developed under the initiative of Uzbekistan, should be regarded as an official document of the General Assembly.
Praising democratic reforms in Uzbekistan, he said that its recent election to the United Nations Human Rights Council was recognition of that progress. The New Uzbekistan Strategy would continue this reform path. The goal would be to become one of the countries with above-middle income per capita by 2030. In this regard, Uzbekistan suggested to hold an international conference in Tashkent dedicated to studying the problems of global economic recovery and best practices to reduce poverty in the post-pandemic world. Building on the success of the World Youth Rights Conference on “Involving Youth in Global Action”, held in Uzbekistan, he noted that a global educational forum on human rights would be held in the city of Samarkandin.
Uzbekistan has been promoting a new approach in Central Asia to make the region a place of prosperity and sustainable development. To that end, it put forward a proposal to adopt a special resolution of the General Assembly on strengthening the interconnectivity of Central and South Asia. Commenting on recent developments in Afghanistan, he indicated that Uzbekistan has recently reopened the Uzbek-Afghan border and resumed a supply of basic-needs and oil products, as well as electricity to the country. In addition, Uzbekistan proposed in 2020 to establish a permanent United Nations Committee on Afghanistan.
Stressing that greater international cooperation in needed to combating terrorism, he noted that the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy 10‑year plan would be presented at an international conference in Tashkent in November. The signing of a regional programme for Central Asia for 2022-2025 with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will also be a step in the right direction. Furthermore, Uzbekistan intends to develop a joint action plan against drugs, covering the countries of Central and South Asia.
He thanked all Member States for the adoption of a General Assembly resolution declaring the Aral Sea region as a zone of environmental innovation and technology. Uzbekistan has been taking decisive actions to tackle climate change and comply with the Paris Agreement. It is offering to host future international conferences, such as the 2022 high-level International Forum on Green Energy in the Aral Sea region, the Biodiversity Convention and the sixth High-Level Assembly for in-depth discussions of the priorities of global environmental policy. Concluding, he said that Uzbekistan would put forward an initiative in the General Assembly to develop a global environment charter aimed at laying the foundation for a new United Nations environmental policy.
FÉLIX ANTOINE TSHISEKEDI TSHILOMBO, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, emphasized the importance of global solidarity in the fight against COVID-19. African countries set up a joint continental strategy to address the pandemic, created a response fund and a platform for medical supplies. Through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, 220 million vaccine doses were purchased, he reported. The continued recurrence of the virus will continue unless there is increased testing capacity and vaccine distribution in countries that don’t have the necessary laboratory products to produce their own. The virus exacerbates the vulnerabilities of many poorer African countries, where the drop in economic activity has been keenly felt through job loss, education and decreased revenue. In that context, African economies need financing to recover, as internal efforts to cushion the blow of the pandemic have proved insufficient. While noting a fresh allocation from IMF of international drawing rights amounting to $33 billion, he said the funding was not enough and suggested that part of the reallocation could contribute to the capitol of the African Development Bank and could promote youth entrepreneurship in Africa.
Turning to global warming on the continent, 2030 could be marked by a decrease in GDP and a sharp increase in flooding and other detrimental climate affects, he warned. Africa will require $30 billion per year to adapt to those challenges, a figure that is set to increase to $50 billion by 2040. “Africa does not need charity,” but constructive win-win partnerships to make better use of its collective national wealth and improve the living conditions of its people.
Development requires strong, stable, democratic institutions, he stressed. Globally, substantial progress has been made in terms of consolidating democratic systems, but the scourge of insecurity caused by terrorist groups imperils the stability of new democracies in Africa. The global fight against Da’esh has achieved victories elsewhere in the world, but affiliates of the group continue to gain ground in Africa. Kinshasa will actively participate in eradicating terrorism by working with African partners, he said. International peace and security are broadly dependent on Member States’ stability, he observed, stressing that it is the duty of the United Nations to actively support them, beyond statements of compassion. If the Organization fails to find an effective strategy to combat insecurity in Africa, open wounds in the Sahara region will metastasize until they become a real threat to international peace and security. He went on to call for a global counter-terrorism strategy, specific security policy, pooling of security resources and sharing of information amongst States. As for prevention, a socioeconomic approach must be promoted. In that context, the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area stems from a desire of Africans to build on their independence.
The political crises in some countries should not diminish the progress made towards democratization in Africa, he continued. His Government undertook reforms and institutional changes in 2020 and 2021, and with assistance from IMF and the World Bank, will carry out social and infrastructure projects. As a result, inflation has decreased and the currency stabilized. However, the lack of security in the northern region of the country threatens to hamper its achievements. As such, he announced he would proclaim a state of emergency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Important progress has already been made on that front, with the elimination of several hundred militia, weapons and ammunition seizures and arms trafficking networks dismantled. Hostages have been released and major roads have been reopened. In that context, it is crucial that the application of sanctions measures be lifted so the Government can freely secure their own territory.
He went on to call for an orderly and gradual withdrawal of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). To that end, a Democratic Republic of the Congo-MONUSCO joint commission has been established to define the strategy and to draft the road map for the eventual withdrawal. The Mission’s transition will expire in 2024, and the United Nations and Security Council must provide it all necessary resources to fulfil its mandate.
SEYYED EBRAHIM RAISI, President of Iran, said that, for hundreds of years, his country has safeguarded its right to self-determination and freedom against hegemony, transforming into the most progressive election-based political system in West Asia. Pointing to the Islamic ideals of independence and religious democracy, he said he addresses the Assembly with a message of rationality, justice and freedom — principles shared by all Abrahamic religions, yet which will not be attained without spirituality. He defined freedom as meaning “the right to think, decide and act for all human beings”, with peace and security tied to the administration of justice and the divine prophets.
Describing two historic scenes from 2021, he pointed to the 6 January attack on the United States Congress and images of Afghans falling from United States planes in August. “From the Capitol to Kabul, one clear message was sent to the world: The United States hegemonic system has no credibility, whether inside or outside the country,” he said. The project of imposing Westernized identity has failed, its results laid bare in blood-spilling, and ultimately, defeat and escape. Yet, it is the oppressed people in Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan — as well as United States taxpayers — who pay for this lack of rationality.
He said the world does not care about “America First” or “America Is Back”. A nation’s perseverance is stronger than a super Power’s might. Over the last decade, the United States has made the mistake of modifying its “way of war” rather than its way of life, with sanctions imposed against Iran dating to 1951, when a military coup backed by the United States and the United Kingdom toppled an elected Government. He called sanctions against medicine during a pandemic a crime against humanity, condemning as illegal those measures imposed on humanitarian items and demanding that “this organized crime against humanity” be recorded as a symbol of so-called United States human rights. Under such conditions, Iran began to produce vaccines domestically, and in addition to peaceful nuclear and satellite technologies, is the medical hub of the region.
He went on to emphasize the importance of cooperation, calling violence, poverty, the collapse of family foundations, regional wars and environmental crises the result of inattention to rationality, justice and freedom. “Speaking about the rights of nations without speaking of the obligations of their Governments cannot bring about the fulfilment of their rights,” he stressed, adding that the Islamic Revolution supports the kind of freedom expressed as the independence of a nation. If not for its role, alongside that of Syria and Iraq and the martyrs of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and General Qassem Soleymani, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) would be Europe’s Mediterranean neighbour. The creation of “cold‑war-esque” divisions will not foster security, nor will an arbitrary attitude solve terrorism, which has roots in crises of identity and economy, with modern lives devoid of spirituality and the spread of oppression fuelling its rise.
Stressing that the resolution of conflict hinges on prioritizing the will of nations to chart their own destiny, he called for an end to the aggressions of outsiders and assured that “freedom does not fit in the backpacks of soldiers coming from outside the region”. In Yemen, he called for an unconditional halt to Yemeni aggression, the opening of aid channels and the facilitation of talks among Yemeni groups. In Gaza, where a blockade has turned the area into the world’s largest prison and “the deal of the century” has failed, the only solution is to hold a referendum among Palestinians of all regions and ethnicities. Violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, meanwhile, followed by a “maximum pressure” campaign and arbitrary withdrawal from a globally recognized agreement, have likewise failed. “We want nothing more than [what] is rightfully ours,” he said, demanding respect for international rules, with all parties staying true to the nuclear deal and related United Nations resolution. Fifteen reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have attested to Iran’s adherence to its commitments, while the United States has not fulfilled its pledge to lift its sanctions. “We do not trust the promises made by the United States Government,” he said. “Nukes have no place in our defence doctrine and deterrence policy.” Iran is keen to have large-scale political and economic convergence with the the world and is ready to bring about a future brimming with rationality, justice, freedom, morality and spirituality.
SEBASTIÁN PIÑERA ECHENIQUE, President of Chile, said the decisions or shortcomings of today will define the world’s trajectory for generations. “Multilateralism is under pressure, and there is a need to reform our international architecture,” he said. Despite warnings of pandemics, COVID-19 was able to take the planet by surprise, overwhelming fragile health-care systems. Medical personnel stepped up around the globe, often putting their lives at risk to save others. Paying tribute to those on the frontlines, he said when forces of innovation and creativity are deployed, incredible results follow. We went from having no information about COVID-19 to having vaccines available in just 10 months. However, that great triumph of science contrasts with a “great political failure” as individualism and isolation failed in the latter.
Lessons included humility; solidarity; cooperation in addressing global problems; and the determination to listen to the voices of scientist and experts, he continued. In Chile, he outlined a health protection network which tripled the number of hospital beds available, cared for the sick and broadened the diagnostic network and the use of scientific criteria without political considerations. The population is largely vaccinated, and the country made significant donations of doses to other Latin American countries, and Chile along with other nations is supporting WHO’s efforts to conclude a treaty for preparedness and response to future pandemics. Drawing attention to the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, along with spikes in national debt, he said it has also expanded the gender gap and exacerbated power struggles between the world’s major powers.
Against that backdrop, public policy decisions should be based on responsible, serious macroeconomic policies, he said. New digital technologies should be embraced broadly, and their benefits shared equally. Noting that the pandemic has drastically changed the world’s ways of working and learning, he said “these changes are here to stay”, and Chile is working to harness them. It had among the largest social protection packages in the world during the pandemic, channelling billions in direct transfers for almost 16 million citizens. Following a 5.8 per cent GDP decline in 2020, Chile’s economy is expected to grow by 10 per cent in 2021. Warning that “climate change has not been in quarantine” — with the climate crisis wreaking havoc even as societies were locked down against the virus — he cautioned against allowing the crisis from becoming a “climate apocalypse” and outlined Chile’s national and international efforts to that end.
Cautioning against the erosion of democratic institutions and the rule of law, he said the cancers of polarization and fragmentation have injected intolerance into many societies around the globe and must be combated. Some of the greatest threats emanate from Governments that were initially democratically elected, but which later co-opted institutions and crushed opposition parties, rendering them illegitimate. In an effort to improve its own system, Chile has planned a Constitutional Convention to draw up a new governing document that will build greater equity into society and protect Chilean values. At the global level, he added that new mechanisms are needed to achieve the right balance, free from exploitation and the use of vetoes. The global community should also unite to protect the rights and freedoms of Afghan women, he added.
MOON JAE-IN, President of the Republic of Korea, said that the most urgent task facing the international community was to deliver an inclusive recovery from the coronavirus crisis. “Now, it is incumbent upon all members of the UN to work with greater vigour to realize the Sustainable Development Goals,” he stressed. To that end, he noted his country’s plan to deliver its $200 million pledge to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment and strive for an equitable supply of vaccines. To defeat the pandemic and move forward, his Government was pushing forward the Korean New Deal Policy and scaling up its official development assistance (ODA), particularly in the green, digital and health‑care areas, he added.
Turning to climate emergencies, he called on States to work together to push forward carbon neutrality, adding that, last year, his country has committed to realizing that goal by 2050 by enacting the Framework Act on Carbon Neutrality, shutting down coal-fired power plants earlier than scheduled and ending public financing for new overseas coal-fired power generation. The Republic of Korea was also scaling up its climate ODA, setting up a Green New Deal Trust Fund and seeking to host the twenty-eighth climate change conference in 2023, he added.
Reaffirming his country’s commitment to a de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula, he highlighted several milestones in the Korean Peninsula peace process, including the Panmunjom Declaration, Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018 and military agreement resulting from the inter-Korean Summit, as well as the Singapore Declaration. In this regard, he called for a speedy resumption of dialogue between the two Koreas and between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Urging States to mobilize for the end-of-war declaration on the Korean Peninsula, he proposed that relevant parties — the two Koreas and the United States and China — come together and declare that the war on the Korean Peninsula is over.
Recalling this year as the thirtieth anniversary of the simultaneous admission of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into the United Nations, he expressed hope that the two Koreas and the surrounding nations could work together, to foster peace on the Korean Peninsula and the entire North-East Asia. He further stated that the Republic of Korea will bid for a seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the coming 2024-2025 term.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN, President of Turkey, spotlighted the global system that contributed to the widening gap between underdeveloped and developed countries during the pandemic. Vaccine nationalism left poorer economies on their own during this difficult time. Pointing out that the nature of the pandemic called for international cooperation and solidarity, he noted that that his country sent medical aid to 159 countries and 12 international organizations. Further, it would soon offer its national vaccine, “Turkovac”, to the benefit of all humanity.
Referring to recent developments in Afghanistan, he called for the help and solidarity of the international community. Recalling Turkey’s involvement with the humanitarian crisis in Syria 10 years ago, he stressed that his country was the only NATO member who fought Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) on the ground, as well as the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. He called for a political solution through Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) in accordance with the expectations of the Syrian people.
Welcoming the extension of the United Nations humanitarian assistance mechanism in the north‑west of Syria via Turkey for 12 months, he stressed that making any distinction between terrorist organizations in the region and using them as subcontractors was unacceptable. With already 1 million Syrian refugees on its territory, Turkey was not able to absorb new immigration waves from Afghanistan. He urged the international community to do its share in line with Geneva Declaration on the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, and international humanitarian law.
Commenting on several ongoing conflicts worldwide, among others he highlighted the role played by Turkey in Libya in securing a ceasefire, and he urged the international community to support the efforts of the National Unity Government. On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he underscored that as long as the persecution of the Palestinian people continued, lasting peace and stability in the Middle East would not be possible. “Occupation, annexation and illegal settlement policies must absolutely and immediately be brought to an end,” he added. He also identified a fair, lasting and sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue which would shift the existing approach which ignores Turkey in the region. In this respect, he referred to Turkey’s proposal to organize an Eastern Mediterranean Conference, in which all actors in the region would take part in dialogue and cooperation.
Emphasizing that climate change was a great concern, he argued that “whoever has wildly exploited natural resources, should also make the greatest contribution to the fight against climate change”. His Government had not implemented the Paris Agreement yet as it considered the obligations to signing parties unequal. However, Turkey’s determination of contributions under the Paris Agreement would be presented before the national Parliament next month. In addition, his country would announce its carbon neutrality ambition during COP26. On a national level, he highlighted Turkey’s achievements to address climate change, including the preparation of an action plan to comply with the European Union’s “Green Deal”.
GUY PARMELIN, President of Switzerland, calling the pandemic a human, social and economic catastrophe, underscored that the international community must anticipate crises, be prepared to deal with them and show solidarity in order to build a resilient world. To this end, his country was hosting the next United Nations World Data Forum in Bern in October. He also emphasized that the role of research, education and vocational training, especially for girls and women, must be at the heart of accessing knowledge, promoting innovation and enabling action. The United Nations was the forum for knowledge and resources, he said, highlighting the importance of global solidarity and common solutions when a crisis affected entire regions, or even the planet.
He went on to urge Member States to continue defending rules-based multilateralism, underlining Switzerland’s commitment to reforms aimed at improving conflict prevention, strengthening the United Nations development system, and modernizing management methods. “Twenty years after joining the United Nations, we are ready to contribute to the work of the UN Security Council for the 2023‑2024 term,” he stated.
In order to defeat the pandemic, vaccines must be accessible to everyone in the world, he continued, adding that Switzerland was committed to ensuring fair and affordable access to vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. Further, there was a need to strengthen resilience of the international value chains without resorting to protectionist measures. He also noted that the legal framework for international trade must work to enhance legal certainty, with the World Trade Organization (WTO) having a key role to play in this regard.
Technological developments and digitalization offered solutions to many of the challenges the world collectively had face, he said, highlighting his delegation’s work in the General Assembly to promote responsible State behaviour and the application of international law in cyberspace. In addition, Member States must take climate change seriously, he stressed, calling on all countries to aim for climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest and to submit ambitious climate targets for 2030.
In a polarized world, “it was more important than ever to return to dialogue”, he emphasized, recalling that Switzerland hosted the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. That Forum resulted in the appointment of a Unified Executive Authority — a first for the country since 2014 — which was tasked with preparing national elections. Referring to Switzerland’s efforts to promote international law, he urged the Member States to follow Switzerland’s suit and prepare reports on the implementation of international humanitarian law. “Such reports enable States to assess their good practices and the challenges to be faced,” he noted.
XI JINPING, President of China, recalling States’ declaration last year to fight the pandemic, observed: “One year later, the world is facing the combined impacts of changes unseen in a century and the COVID-19 pandemic.” Beating COVID‑19 was the priority now, he said, stressing that States should put people first, care about the life, value and dignity of every individual and adopt a science-based approach.
Emphasizing the need to make vaccines a global public good, especially in developing countries, he announced China’s plan to provide a total of 2 billion doses of vaccines to the world by the end of this year. In addition to this, 100 million doses of vaccines will be donated to developing countries this year and $100 million will be donated to COVAX, he said.
He went on to emphasize the need to revitalize the economy and pursue more robust, greener and balanced global development. To that end, he proposed a global development initiative that would ensure development as a priority through a people-centred approach that included harmony between man and nature, innovation‑driven development and results-oriented actions. As well, he highlighted China’s pledge of an additional $3 billion of international assistance in the next three years to support developing countries in responding to and recovering from the pandemic.
He further stressed the need to strengthen solidarity and promote mutual respect and win-win cooperation in conducing international relations. “Democracy is not a special right reserved to an individual country, but a right for the people of all countries to enjoy,” he said, calling on States to reject zero-sum games and resolve differences through dialogue and cooperation. “China has never and will never invade or bully others or seek hegemony,” he added.
States should improve global governance and practise true multilateralism, he continued. Stressing that the United Nations is at the core of the only international system in the world, he urged the Organization to increase the representation and say of developing countries.
ZORAN MILANOVIĆ, President of Croatia, said this moment in history calls for “hope above all”. With violence, poverty and hunger rising, uneven global development, and other challenges including natural disasters and migration, there are few if any alternatives to multilateralism, global solidarity and international cooperation. Calling the pandemic “a historic test for this generation”, he cited a resolution co-coordinated by his Government with Afghanistan, which set the stage not only for recovery, but building back better. As an upcoming member of the Economic and Social Council (2022-2024), Croatia will foster a stronger multilateral response to the pandemic, in the spirit of global solidarity, with safe and effective vaccines made more accessible without discrimination.
Turning to “our south-east neighbourhood”, he emphasized the importance of stability, functionality and prosperity in the Western Balkans, with Croatia advocating for its European Union enlargement prospects. However, fulfilling well-established criteria and implementing reforms remain key requirements. While Bosnia and Herzegovina is a cornerstone of regional peace and security, he called its situation “as challenging and as complex as it gets” in the Western Balkans.
Expressing hope for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Croatia on the path to European Union membership, he spotlighted political narratives there which often “swing between two tenaciously unachievable and unjust ends — centralized governance and separatism”. The inequality of its constituent peoples (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats) has been left unresolved for too long, he noted, unnecessarily creating internal political instabilities. While long overdue and urgent electoral reforms should ensure that all peoples are able to choose their representatives, he noted Croats in the country have not been able to exercise this right. “This has to change”, he emphasized.
After the collapse of Afghanistan’s Government, he noted the key question now is how to deal with the Taliban. A pragmatic approach will not be easy, as the international community rightfully calls upon those in power to respect fundamental rights. Amid concerns that Afghanistan may once again become a breeding ground for terrorism, he cited Croatia’s financial support for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in providing humanitarian support. As the Middle East peace process is crucial not just regionally but globally, he said the two-State solution, based on internationally agreed upon parameters, remains viable. Reviving the Iran nuclear deal is also a key instrument of regional security and stability. Similarly, although the Libyan crisis may be winding down, he noted a lasting peace there will remain complicated.
Citing the importance of reforming the United Nations, especially the Security Council, he called on all Member States yet to ratify the Rome Statute, to do so. Noting that Croatia is still searching for 1,858 of its citizens missing or unaccounted after the 1991-1995 Croatian War of Independence, he urged neighbouring States to cooperate in good faith and respect their declared commitments and international agreements.
ABDEL FATTAH AL SISI, President of Egypt, said that while the pandemic revealed humanity’s common traits, it also revealed its shared challenges, no matter the level of development. Citing the relevance of this year’s theme on building resilience and recovery, he called on developed States to recognize that they received the majority of vaccines. In that regard, all obstacles to access to vaccines must be removed and the African continent must be prioritized as the world’s most affected region. The pandemic exacerbated decades-long difficulties, necessitating international support for developing States and middle-income countries, which carry a significant percentage of the global population. Citing $650 billion in special drawing rights provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he stressed prioritizing debt reduction, especially for African countries, providing preferential rates and concessional funding.
With environmental degradation posing a threat to the world, as demonstrated by severe climate events in recent months, he underlined a common, moral responsibility to future generations. The international community must avoid reaching “the point of no return”, he said, noting Egypt will host the twenty-seventh Conference of the States Parties in 2022. Turning to the threat of terrorism, he said extremist ideologies must be countered with a comprehensive approach beyond military confrontation and embrace social, economic and ideological factors. All States must uphold their responsibilities, holding accountable those who foster and support terrorism, including by allowing foreign fighters through their territories. He noted that the human rights situation in Egypt witnessed marked developments, adding that its membership in the Peacebuilding Commission demonstrated international community confidence. Egypt was ranked as the seventh-largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
He called for a just, lasting and comprehensive Middle East peace solution, with a Palestinian State along the 1967 border and East Jerusalem as its capital. The international community must help improve Palestinian living conditions, with donors supporting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). To that end, his Government was providing $500 million for reconstruction efforts. Highlighting the challenges faced by the wider region, in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Libya and Yemen, he emphasized there was no alternative to the inclusive nation State.
While spotlighting Egypt’s geographical and existential continuity with Africa, he stated cooperation must be a two-way street. The Nile River remains Egypt’s lifeline, he stressed, describing national angst over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Citing 10 years of intransigence from Ethiopia and Sudan, his Government has sought Security Council help to bolster mediation efforts and remains committed to a legally binding agreement on the issue. As multilateralism remains the only refuge from escalating conflicts, he stressed: “Let us arm ourselves not with the logic of force, but the force of logic.”
PEDRO CASTILLO TERRONES, President of Peru, said that, at this time of instability, people are demanding answers. Peruvians have voted in favour of social change with macroeconomic stability and sustainable growth, depending on the Government to forge a socially inclusive society that guarantees freedom and civil rights, alongside the promotion of the population’s participation in all decision-making processes affecting their destinies and their lives. Given Peru’s current challenges, including a pandemic-affected economy, he said a social transformation is needed to, among other things, guarantee the people’s rights to education, health, decent employment, a living wage, social security and housing, in line with environmental protection. Voicing full support for the Secretary-General’s new, global social contract that guides Peru’s forward action, he said the Government is working towards this vision, from reducing inequalities to fighting poverty.
As the world moves into the second year of the pandemic, he said vaccines have opened the way forward, but the fight against COVID-19 has demonstrated the international system’s inability to cooperate under the principles of solidarity and efficiency. New agreements must ensure vaccine equity at a time when multilateral cooperation remains greatly absent from the fight against COVID-19. The new global agenda should include urgent, vigorous, multilateral action to combat the pandemic and allow access by all countries, especially the poorest, to vaccines and free health coverage. For its part, Peru will be an active and dynamic member in that common task, so that all countries have inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory access to all therapies, medicine and vaccines. Top priority must be given to strengthening international scientific cooperation to combat the pandemic, and initiatives to do so must be reinforced, he said, adding that action cannot be postponed on the temporary release of vaccine patents so such nations as India, South Africa and the United States can produce in other countries. This would be a serious demonstration of commitment to protect the life and health of all people, he said, noting that Peru’s foreign and national policies are geared towards cooperation with all nations.
Social diplomacy remains a priority, he said, drawing attention to the Sustainable Development Goals and calling for bolstered action to meet food needs, stimulate social protection programmes, maintain and increase trade and supply chains, and support small producers. Peru is also committed to policies on, among other things, full access to health care, gender equality and improved informal employment. As a schoolteacher by profession, he called attention to the millions of children out of school, a situation the pandemic worsened. The Secretary-General’s new global agenda must reflect the need for education for all and must also recognize women’s and girls’ rights at all levels. Noting that Peru aligns plans with the Sustainable Development Goals, he said social diplomacy is both a national requirement and a global imperative.
Turning to other priorities, he first highlighted the climate crisis, which requires prompt action for nations to rethink their activities to achieve sustainable development in harmony with the planet. For its part, Peru assumes the goal of becoming a carbon-neutral country by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 30 to 40 per cent, compared to what is projected for 2030, he said, adding that the Government plans on declaring a national climate emergency. As a country that has suffered terrorist violence, Peru supports any action to fight it, including the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and is committed to global peace and security, and respect for international law and an inclusive agenda. At this fragile moment facing world diplomacy and multilateralism, the world’s collective will is stronger, he declared, expressing certainty that the New Global Agenda will allow nations to build together a world of peace, friendship, cooperation and well-being for all.
GURBANGULY BERDIMUHAMEDOV, President of Turkmenistan, said that the effectiveness of international cooperation will depend on whether States can find a common denominator between national interests and global goals and priorities. International efforts to combat COVID-19 and its economic impact are insufficient. Only through unity among Member States and the United Nations system will it be possible to combat a common threat, he said, proposing that the Assembly, during its new session, consider the role of the WHO and the establishment of a Central Asia regional centre for epidemiology, virology and bacteriology. Efforts must also be made to strengthen the international transport system in the face of emergencies, he said.
He invited Member States to participate in an international conference in December, hosted by his country, on the theme “The policy of peace and trust is the foundation of international security, stability and development”. During the Assembly’s current session, Turkmenistan will present a draft resolution on strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in Central Asia. He also reiterated his country’s proposal to create a zone of peace, trust and cooperation in the Central Asia and Caspian region as a platform to strengthen multilateral cooperation for global peace and development.
The situation in Afghanistan is not easy, he said, stressing the need for consistency, balance and responsibility when responding to developments in that country. Afghan realities have changed and ideological preferences, old grievances, phobias and stereotypes should be discarded. Turkmenistan calls for a speedy normalization of the situation in Afghanistan, with the emerging State institutions working for the benefit of all Afghan people. He added that his country will continue to provide economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, including the completion of ongoing energy, transportation and communication projects. “The readiness of Turkmenistan as a neighbouring and neutral State to promote the establishment of appropriate contacts and the creation of conditions for the early establishment of peace, harmony and unity in Afghanistan remains unchanged,” he said.
He stressed that effective collaboration on sustainable development at the global, regional and national level is a major priority. Turkmenistan looks forward to continuing broad dialogue on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. An international conference on development financing ought to be organized very soon. During the Assembly’s new session, Turkmenistan and its partners will work towards establishing a United Nations special programme for the Aral Sea basin that would help mitigate the consequences of an ecological catastrophe in that area. Turning to humanitarian issues, he said that his country will promote strengthening the role of the Commission for Social Development to develop coordinated responses to such issues as social protection, youth affairs and strengthening the role of the family. It also stands ready to contribute to resolving migration issues. He concluded by saying that Turkmenistan’s partnership with the United Nations remains a strategic priority and the foundation of all its efforts in the international arena.
SAULI NIINISTÖ, President of Finland, spotlighting the Helsinki Final Act, pointed out that the entire world and the United Nations needed the “Helsinki Spirit” in order to solve problems together. Therefore, to end this pandemic, the solution must be global. Global action was also needed in order to be better prepared for future pandemics. To improve resilience, a “One Health” approach was required. Enhancing international collaboration on research and development and exchanging information on emerging threats was vital. It was also important to reflect upon the long-term ramifications of the pandemic, which had resulted in an increase in extreme poverty and inequality and a deterioration of gender equality.
Turning to climate change, he stated that the rapid loss of biodiversity alone should be a cause for immediate global concern. Yet, that urgency was still not reflected in actions. “We have to use the upcoming COP26 conference to put ourselves on a sustainable course. It is our common responsibility, that of Governments and institutions, of companies and individuals, to step up,” he stressed. More ambitious emission-reduction plans were needed well ahead of the meeting in Glasgow. Furthermore, the ongoing transition away from fossil fuels needed to be sped-up. The quality of climate finance needed to be increased, particularly regarding the least developed countries and small island developing States. To that end, finance ministers should take climate change into account in all of their decision-making.
The events of Afghanistan in the past weeks were a reminder of the fragility of peace and security, he continued. The country’s humanitarian needs were immense and it was critical for the international community to act together to ensure the access of humanitarian assistance. United Nations agencies staying on in Afghanistan played a key role here. “Women and girls in Afghanistan must not be forgotten or made invisible,” he emphasized. The diplomatic toolbox of the United Nations Charter needed to be used to its full potential, to build peace where needed and to prevent conflicts where possible.
As a member of the Human Rights Council, he emphasized that Finland would do its best to work for the benefit of peace, stability and prosperity across the world. Promoting the rights of persons with disabilities was a cross-cutting priority for his country. Another key theme was the rights of all women and girls. The recently launched Generation Equality campaign, which Finland co-leads, had an important role in mobilizing different actors for gender equality, he noted.
In an era of intensifying great-Power competition and rapid technological progress, the world was also faced with a serious risk of a new arms race, he warned. If the unravelling of the international arms control system was allowed to continue, it would reduce predictability and increase the likelihood of unintended escalation. The most important task now was to uphold and strengthen the existing arms control architecture. It was also important to develop new solutions to respond to emerging challenges and technologies, by strengthening confidence-building, verification and transparency. In nuclear arms control, he welcomed the extension of the New START Treaty. Engagement between all the nuclear powers would be beneficial for global security, he stated.
RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE, President of the Philippines, warning that the world’s future will likely be one of inequality with no hope of ever succeeding in closing the gap between rich and poor, said the international community must not allow such an unjust order to happen. “We have to reverse course,” he said, stressing that only inclusive multilateralism, based on fairness and respect, can deliver the global public goods needed. The future for the downtrodden is bleak, as a man-made drought of vaccines ravages poor countries. “Rich countries hoard life-saving vaccines, while poor nations wait for trickles,” he said, stressing: “The pandemic will not end unless the virus is defeated everywhere, and vaccines are key to achieving this.” He highlighted that his Administration committed $1 million to the COVAX Facility, strongly urging privileged partners to fully support the Facility and strengthen other cooperation mechanisms, which is crucial to save more lives, break the cycle of variants and help ensure global economic recovery.
Likewise, climate change has exposed the varying vulnerabilities of countries around the globe and those who suffer the most are the least responsible for this existential crisis, he said. The world has reached a tipping point, where failure to act leads to cataclysmic consequences for the whole of humankind. For its part, the Philippines has submitted its first nationally determined contribution, with a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 75 per cent by 2030, and has placed a moratorium on new coal plant construction. “But this contribution will be rendered useless if the biggest polluters — past and present — choose to do ‘business as usual’,” he said, appealing for urgent climate action, especially from those who can truly tip the balance. Developed countries have a moral obligation to fulfil their longstanding commitment to climate financing, technology transfer and capacity-building in the developing world.
Pointing out that millions of Filipinos work abroad under the most difficult and inhumane of circumstances, he called for abolishing all structures that allow the exploitation and oppression of migrant workers: “The kafala system is one such behemoth that chains the weak, the desperate and the voiceless to an existence of unimaginable suffering,” he said. His Administration will deal with all criminals, including terrorists, with the full force of law. The Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police will review the conduct of law enforcement in the campaign against illegal drugs and hold accountable those found to have acted outside the law. The recently finalized Joint Programme on Human Rights between his Administration and the United Nations is a model for constructive engagement between the Organization and a sovereign Member State. Enduring meaningful change must come from within; the imposition of one’s will over another — no matter how noble the intent — has never worked. “How many more countries shall be made to unravel and descend into chaos before the powerful heed this simple lesson?” he asked, calling for pragmatic approaches to nation-building. “We all pay the price for the misadventures of the few that spiral into humanitarian disasters.”
The Philippines, he went on, has opened its doors to Afghan nationals, especially women and children, fleeing conflict. His Administration will work closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to prepare a cooperation programme for Rohingya refugees. The Philippines is one with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in ensuring the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, security and prosperity. Concluding, he said the United Nations no longer reflects current political and economic realities of today. The Security Council is neither democratic nor transparent in its representation and processes. To lead the world out of many global crises, he said, “the UN must empower itself, by reforming itself. Therein lies the hope for humanity.”
PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the international system like never before, but alongside unfortunate examples of inequality, there has been ample evidence of the spirit of global solidarity and fairness, exemplifying the best values of the United Nations. One such case is the COVAX mechanism, despite its limitations, as without it, Africa’s vaccine deficit would be even more severe. “But, we can and must do more to speed up vaccine distribution in Africa; doing so benefits the entire world,” he continued, welcoming such positive steps from various partners and companies towards building local vaccine manufacturing capacity. The world must now harness this positive momentum to build long-term pandemic resilience where it is needed most. Citing examples of this, he pointed to the cooperation of the Group of 7 and Group of 20 to issue new special drawing rights. A further voluntary reallocation of new special drawing rights to countries that need them most will help to create the fiscal space required for a faster and more equitable pandemic recovery.
However, the world is seriously off track with the Sustainable Development Goals, he said. While nations were behind schedule with the Goals even before the pandemic hit, there is now increased attention on figuring out how to refocus efforts and catch up. This sense of urgency must be converted into durable political commitments to achieve the Goals, putting climate change mitigation at the centre of efforts. The severity of weather-related disasters is increasing year-by-year, and the world cannot afford an inconclusive or divisive result at the forthcoming COP26. At the same time, he emphasized the importance of citizen-centred governance and accountability, which guarantees well-being, material progress, security, stability and confidence in the future. The extremist ideologies that drive terrorism and genocide must be named, identified early and dismantled, without ambiguity or hesitation. “On that, we cannot afford to play politics,” he said, expressing a strong endorsement of the Secretary-General’s Report on Our Common Agenda.
The Secretary-General is right to warn of a possible breakdown in the multilateral system in the face of the pandemic, worsening conflict, the climate emergency and chronic poverty, he said. This would have disastrous consequences for all, and the risk should be taken seriously. The Secretary-General’s action plan merits States’ full support, particularly the need for a global vaccination plan, a renewal of trust between Governments and citizens, more focus on the needs of youth and a rejuvenated commitment to fact-based reasoning and science. “Whether we are able to convene physically for the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly in 2022, or for the Secretary-General’s proposed Summit of the Future, depends on the actions we all take in the coming months,” he said. “With determination and focus, it can be achieved.”
ALBERTO FERNÁNDEZ, President of Argentina, said that with global inequality, climate change and COVID-19, the world is facing a triple pandemic. COVID-19 has demonstrated the globalization of injustice and vulnerability that goes beyond borders. Argentina welcomes patent-related proposals before the World Trade Organization to promote the local development and production of vaccines, which must be a global public good. Addressing the consequences of the pandemic must go hand-in-hand with caring for the planet, he added, emphasizing his country’s total commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change and its determination to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
He called for the restructuring of the international financial architecture, saying that it is painful that a commitment to provide $100 billion to developing countries to combat climate change has yet to be realized. Climate justice will be a mere chimera without financial justice that contributes to social justice. Drawing attention to “debticide”, or homicide by debt, he called for an inclusive multilateral agreement on sovereign debt restructuring, as the Group of 20’s debt service suspension initiative, while worthwhile, does not comprehensively address the issue. The credit ratings of countries, which currently is in the hands of a few private agencies, should be part of the agenda for international financial reform. Discussion of a global minimum tax also needs to be deepened, as the proposal put forth by the Group of Seven and Group of 20 does not sufficiently favour emerging economies.
The COVID-19 crisis is also a human rights crisis, he said, emphasizing that preventing and averting serious human rights violations, crimes against humanity and genocide should be one of the United Nations main tasks. Together with France, Argentina is preparing a campaign for the universalization of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, with the aim of achieving 100 ratifications by 2025. By legalizing abortion, the Argentine State has assumed responsibility for protecting the life and health of women and persons of other gender identities capable of gestation. He also noted the adoption of legislation that would see 1 per cent of public sector jobs filled by transvestites, transsexuals and transgender people.
He reiterated his country’s request for Iran to cooperate with its judicial authorities who are investigating the 1994 attack on the headquarters of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina in Buenos Aires. He welcomed the Food Systems Summit that will be held on the 23 September, adding that a transition to sustainable food production should be gradual and acknowledge that there is not single model of development that suits all the nations of the world.
He concluded by reaffirming his country’s legitimate position regarding its right of sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands*, South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands and surrounding maritime areas, which are part of Argentina’s national territory, illegally occupied by the United Kingdom. There is no reason for that country not to resume bilateral talks on the Malvinas, in line with resolution 2065, adopted by the Assembly in 1965. The United Kingdom’s failure to heed the call to resume negotiations has exacerbated this dispute and its excessive military presence on the islands creates tension in a region that is meant to be a zone for peace and international cooperation. He requested the Secretary-General to renew his good offices mission in relation to this dispute.
KLAUS WERNER IOHANNIS, President of Romania, said that while the COVID-19 pandemic affected almost all aspects of human life, “it also provided us with opportunities to learn, adapt and do things better”. Global challenges require common solutions, solidarity and cooperation, he stressed, voicing strong support for democratic values and a rules-based international order with the United Nations at its core. In addition, the pandemic also revealed a need to build back better, greener and fairer, leaving no one behind.
Calling for integrated and innovative approaches to a range of linked challenges - including, among others, migration, scarce resources, climate change and biodiversity loss, extreme poverty and hunger - he said the world was indeed at an inflection point. He welcomed the newly issued report on Our Common Agenda, voicing support for its main conclusions and urging the Secretary-General to continue efforts towards their implementation. The post-COVID recovery must place sustainability at its core, as effects of climate change have no national borders. “The responsibility to effectively address them rests on all of us,” he stressed, outlining Romania’s cooperation with partners to that end.
Among other emerging challenges, he spotlighted both the potential and threats of new digital technologies and the opportunity to strengthen national health systems and make them more resilient. As well, equitable and affordable global access to vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 must be ensured. Reaffirming his support for the COVAX facility and the “Team Europe” approach to support countries in tackling the pandemic’s impacts, he added his support to the call for the adoption of an international legal instrument for pandemic preparedness and response. Meanwhile, the primary responsibility in protecting and promoting human rights was with States. “We must all ensure that restrictions related to COVID-19 do not exacerbate rights violations,” he stressed.
Noting that COVID-19 made humanitarian intervention even more difficult, he said international action was nevertheless still needed in many parts of the world. In Romania, refugees and persons at risk were included in national public health coverage schemes and provided with access to immunizations, including against COVID-19. The country recently welcomed vulnerable groups of Afghans, and it was continuing to prioritize the rights of women, children and minorities. Throughout its presidency of the Community of Democracies, Romania has continued to work to uphold democratic principles, he said, encouraging all States to do the same. “It is the right time to turn the COVID-19 crisis and its security impact into an opportunity to revitalize the peace and security agenda, with renewed emphasis on conflict prevention and the consolidation of peace processes,” he added.
He also called for stepped-up, coordinated efforts to confront the global threat of terrorism, building upon the newly reviewed Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Ensuring strategic resilience was a priority for Romania, as demonstrated by its creation of the Euro-Atlantic Centre for Resilience. Together with partner countries, it was also promoting a declaration on the importance of accepting the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, an initiative which all delegations are invited to support.
SURANGEL WHIPPS JR., President of Palau, thanked allies like the United States, Australia, Japan and Taiwan that came to his country’s aid, delivering COVID-19 vaccines, personal protective equipment and testing capacity. This allowed Palau to remain COVID-free for most of the pandemic; 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated with no deaths or hospitalizations. Taiwan demonstrated leadership in the global pandemic response and it facilitated creation of an effective sterile corridor for travel between Palau and Taiwan. “We encourage the UN system to accept Taiwan as a valuable contributor to our collective efforts and strongly advocate for Taiwan’s participation in the UN system,” he said. Thanks to the strength of human resolve, global resources were mobilized in record time and numerous vaccines and treatments were developed. Still, more can and must be done to contain the virus.
The same level of urgency and bold action should be applied to respond to the existential threat of climate change, he said. In April, typhoon Surigae damaged 20 per cent of Palau’s homes, destroyed major infrastructure and millions of dollars worth of crops, and wreaked havoc on reefs and corals, undermining the island nation’s food security. Small island developing States like his lack economies of scale and rely on imports, making them among the most vulnerable to climate change. Natural disasters like rising sea levels and typhoons cannot be responded to “by kicking the can down the road”, he said, warning against complacency as the world is running out of time. “We must act now to ensure our children inherit a healthy and reliable future,” he said, and before further irreparable damage is done to the planet. Ocean-based climate action can play a significant role, resulting in up to 21 per cent of the greenhouse gas emission cuts needed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2050.
A major impediment to addressing climate change risk for small island developing States is their inability to access climate financing, he said. Of the 20 per cent of financing set aside for adaptation, only 2 per cent went to these States, and half of those funds were in the form of loans, not grants. He urged the United Nations to address that inequality. He cited a recent study on the Palau National Marine Sanctuary by Stanford University which projected a 40 per cent decline in skipjack and yellowfin biomass in Palau’s waters by 2100 if the world continues on the current high emissions trajectory. In 2022, Palau will host the seventh Our Oceans Conference. In 2015, Palau declared most of its exclusive economic zone as the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. But this is not enough. “We need global action. It’s time that the international community commits to establishing a 30 per cent target that focuses on marine-protected areas within and beyond national jurisdictions,” he said.
He went on to say Palau is renewing its Compact of Free Association with the United States and expressed confidence that the new United States Administration will correct deficiencies in previous deliberations. Highlighting the fundamental Palauan principle of “we” and the community as a collective unit, he said the United Nations has an opportunity to reconcile global issues and unite to take the action needed to implement crucial solutions. The nations of the world must act like the surgeon fish and all come together, including Taiwan, he said, stressing that “Taiwan’s 23.5 million people must also be given a voice, as our UN Charter states: ‘We the peoples’.”
CARLOS ALVARADO QUESADA, President of Costa Rica, said the world can only be as strong and prosperous as the most vulnerable — a concept that is not a romantic vision of multilateralism. Leaving no one behind is a moral guide and call to action, as everything is an interconnected and interdependent macrosystem. However, he noted only 2 in 10 people in poor and middle-income countries have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while that number is 8 in 10 in high-or upper-middle-States, “an abysmal and tragic inequality”. He added that without maximum global vaccination, even those who have accumulated more vaccines are vulnerable to virus mutations or the economic ravages of the pandemic.
Highlighting recent weeks of extreme natural hazards worldwide, including floods, hurricanes and forest fires, driving loss of crops and migrations, he said in the worst case scenario, by the end of century, planet temperature will increase by 4.4°C. Ironically, those States generating the lowest emissions are the most affected, forced to take on more debt for adaptation and reconstruction. Noting that global military spending continued to rise in 2020 despite the raging pandemic and unprecedented climate crisis, he asked whether the international community is doing enough for future generations.
Given the reality of an interconnected planet, “the best way to be selfish is to be supportive and generous,” he stated. He noted the pandemic presents an opportunity to build a better world. Citing the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool as an initiative to democratize availability of medicines, he noted the pandemic has put pressure on developing economies at every level. In that light, the $650 billion fund of special drawing rights is a step, but not enough, as over 40 per cent is allocated to rich countries with only 1 per cent for developing States. Costa Rica has proposed the Fund to Alleviate the COVID-19 Economy, nearly half a trillion dollars funded by 0.7 per cent of the GDP of the largest economies, intermediated by multilateral development banks, as concessional long-term 40-year fixed-rate loans to developing States.
Citing the United Nations conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification, he noted Costa Rica aims to decarbonize its economy by 2050. However, only 15 per cent of the planet’s resources and 7 per cent of its oceans are protected. An initiative led by Costa Rica, France and the United Kingdom aims by 2030 to protect 30 per cent of the planet’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Citing the 31 August declaration as International Day for People of African Descent, he called for support of Haiti, the first country in the Americas to end slavery, and the end of international measures affecting Cuba. He also expressed support for the fundamental rights of the Cuban people at home and concern about the human rights situation in Nicaragua.
ANDRZEJ DUDA, President of Poland, said the Secretary-General’s report, Our Common Agenda, provides a comprehensive response to the world’s most pressing challenges, from climate change to COVID-19 recovery. Highlighting Poland’s efforts to overcome the pandemic’s impact, he said 75,000 citizens lost their lives and 3 million of its 38 million people have contracted the virus, including himself. While its robust economy has recovered in 2021, a year ago Poland failed to record economic growth for the first time in 30 years, which affected millions of families. Indeed, the fight against the pandemic conjured a word well known in the nation: solidarity, referring to Poland’s history, when workers established a large independent trade union in 1980 that went on strike against the communist regime. A symbolic guiding principle of Poland’s policy and ideal, the word emerges in the context of COVID-19, he said, doubting that the world had showed enough solidarity to fight the virus.
Recalling that at the pandemic’s outbreak borders re-emerged in Europe and the world hoped for a vaccine, he said that almost two years later, with more than 4.5 million casualties, States should answer the question about how well they passed the solidarity test. Saluting those who won the vaccine battle in laboratories around the world, he questioned whether access to doses has been fair and whether efforts of nations like Poland were enough in ensuring their distribution, along with medical supplies and personnel, to all countries in need. The word “solidarity” does not refer exclusively to the pandemic, he said, turning to other concerns, including the right to self-determination and to democratic governance, enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Indeed, the pandemic has blurred attention paid to multiple misfortunes plaguing some countries, including Belarus, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.
Yet, solidarity comes at a price because regimes tend to defend themselves not only against their own citizens but also against democratic States, he said. However, the world did not come to a standstill during the pandemic, which has not deprived nations of their democratic aspirations, stifled people’s desire to live in freedom or suppressed the craving for dignity and respect. Recalling Moldovan voters who took power away from the oligarchs plundering their country and voted in favour of reforms and democracy, he said such moments restore faith in the most fundamental values of humanity and inspire profound solidarity in other countries. The experience of sharing the same planet teaches nations coexistence, he stated, adding that international law is a framework to do so while being one of the greatest achievements of modern times. Debating United Nations reform always centres on one thing: how to promote the Organization’s role in securing the primacy of international law “because we want to live in a world founded on law, not on force”, he said, pledging Poland’s commitment to this critical issue.
Noting that the pandemic has blurred another major topic — the fight against climate change — he asked: “Do we, the rich North, pass the test of solidarity, or do we merely cater to our own statistics by relocating production to the poorer countries of the South where least environment friendly technologies are applied, and then those countries are blamed for contaminating the planet?” Citing Poland’s tremendous progress since overthrowing communism, he said that between 1988 and 2016 carbon dioxide emissions fell by more than 30 per cent. The share of hard coal in its energy mix is decreasing, biofuels and renewable energy sources are gaining ground, and more achievements are ahead, including the finalization of the Katowice Rulebook, which streamlines the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and the Energy Policy of Poland until 2040. In closing, he said solidarity has not ceased to exist in the face of a pandemic. It should continue to be the world’s motto and central tenet not to compromise on human rights and the rights of entire nations, to secure the development of the United Nations and to be ready to set and pursue ambitious goals in the struggle to protect the planet.
GUILLERMO LASSO MENDOZA, President of Ecuador, said that his Government was recently elected promising change, opportunity and the restoration of democracy. This vision is markedly different from that of the last 14 years, when his predecessor and other Latin American leaders complained of asymmetries and so-called empires and launched personal diatribes against others. “I want you to get to know me not through incendiary speeches, but through concrete results,” he said.
The United Nations was born after a protracted period of conflict, when humanity realized that global problems require global responses, he said. The COVID-19 pandemic has made that idea all the more relevant and the world is compelled to put it into action. He reported that four months after the inauguration of its new Government, Ecuador has become a vaccination success story thanks to diplomacy. Sixty-two per cent of the vaccines that have come into the country were delivered by China, while the United States, its main trading partner, donated 2 million doses. Talks are under way with the Russian Federation to build Latin America’s first production facility for the Sputnik vaccine. Nine million citizens were fully immunized during the Government’s first 100 days and now more than half the population is vaccinated, he reported.
Stressing once again that actions speak louder than words, he said that his Government, in its first days in power, presented a draft organic law on free expression and communication to guarantee the fulfilment of that human right. It signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations to create mechanisms to fight corruption. Underscoring his country’s rich biodiversity, he said it is natural for Ecuador to implement policies to reduce carbon emissions and stop runaway environmental degradation. He reiterated Ecuador’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, adding that he has great expectations for the Glasgow Climate Change Conference.
He went on to discuss “the tragedy of forced migration”, saying that it is a sad reality that today’s migrants are not looking for greener pastures but mere survival. Ecuador has welcomed 433,000 citizens of Venezuela, but it is also witnessing a growing number of its own people seeking to enter the United States despite unimaginable risks. Migration is a clear signal that the peoples of the world want more integration, not less, with access to the global job market and education. The solution lies in bringing markets to citizens, not forcing citizens to migrate, he said, emphasizing that it is better to connect through free trade than through forced migration. Sooner or later, citizens will strive for economic freedom and States must facilitate that natural impulse, he said.
EGILS LEVITS, President of Latvia, said the current global challenge is to achieve the widest possible vaccination as soon as possible while addressing a range of new and emerging issues. Providing support to increase vaccine availability worldwide, Latvia continues to share them through the COVAX mechanism. However, this crisis has highlighted the need to continuously strengthen resilience, as the pandemic reveals the vulnerability of societies to disinformation. Latvia combats disinformation by strengthening public resilience, raising awareness and involving civil society. Yet, the lines between freedom of speech, accountability and censorship are thin and fragile. Such freedoms should not be managed by the global Internet platforms, but instead by democratic societies, he said, adding that combating disinformation globally requires even closer understanding and cooperation in international organizations.
Underlining the importance of investments in sustainable digital solutions to the pandemic, he said Latvia was among the first to develop such response tools. Such solutions have had an impact in other areas, including reducing the need to commute, which helps to limit emissions, but digital transformation and artificial intelligence pose new risks, requiring new legal principles to help nations make the best use of opportunities and avoid risks to human rights. Human autonomy, or free will, is being endangered, he said, pointing to recent innovations through global social platforms and the increasing use of artificial intelligence that make it possible to influence and manipulate thoughts and actions more effectively. The main challenge for the democratic world in the coming decades will be whether artificial intelligence or humans control decisions. Citing other important related issues, he said efforts are under way to protect linguistic diversity in the digital age, offer women and girls new skills through its Riga TechGirls project, and support the United Nations Technology Facilitation Mechanism.
Turning to other concerns, he underlined an urgent need to reach common goals on the environment, climate change and renewable energy, with the upcoming Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Glasgow marking an important milestone. Committed to achieving the Paris Agreement targets, Latvia has also adopted an ambitious development to minimize carbon production. On the Sustainable Development Goals, Latvia is committed to promoting peace, justice and good governance. He remained concerned about negative developments regarding basic human rights and security issues in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Tigray, Ethiopia. Strongly condemning the actions of the Lukashenko regime against civil society, independent media and journalists, he said the crisis in Belarus can only be resolved by new, free and fair presidential elections. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s military intimidation campaign against Ukraine continues, he said, calling for the international community’s broad engagement with the newly established International Crimean Platform. “Frozen conflicts”, including in Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, should be solved in accordance with international law.
Recalling that Latvia joined the United Nations 30 years ago, he said the country has contributed to international missions and its experience in strengthening statehood, rule of law and good governance provides a better understanding of similar efforts elsewhere. A new generation of Latvians is deeply concerned about the climate crisis and disinformation and wants to build inclusive societies where people of all generations, backgrounds and communities can feel included, not only formally but in practice. To meet the challenges of the modern age, the United Nations and its Security Council must show willingness to change and implement long overdue reforms. As a member of the Accountability, Cohesion and Transparency Group, Latvia would strongly support text-based negotiations on reforming the Council, which should ensure more equitable representation from African, Latin American and Eastern European countries. It is in the interests of every State to defend an international system based on rules and rights in order to maintain global security and sustainable growth, with the United Nations at the centre. “No State is big enough to resolve alone the complex challenges we face today; therefore, let each of us offer constructive solutions,” he said. “The need for an effective United Nations is now greater than ever.”
RUMEN RADEV, President of Bulgaria, said that the pandemic, among many other challenges, raised the need for a more effective and coherent rules-based multilateralism, with the United Nations system at its core. “Multilateralism is the key to our future and has no alternative,” he stressed. Going forward, the most urgent tasks included preventing the spread of the coronavirus; global economic recovery; speeding up progress on climate change and sustainable development; and combating terrorism and transborder crime, among others. Emphasizing the need to build resilience, he said that sustainability cannot be achieved without tackling the effects of climate change, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.
He expressed deep concern at ongoing threats of security and stability in many parts of the world, including in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Ukraine. All States must combat terrorism through concerted multilateral efforts, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Noting that Bulgaria will receive up to 70 Afghan refugees, he said that continued humanitarian engagement with Afghanistan was essential. Regarding the Middle East, there was no alternative to reviving the region’s peace process. All sides must refrain from unilateral acts and they must give negotiations a chance. The crisis in Ukraine must also be resolved based on full and comprehensive implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
In the context of the pandemic, human rights must be respected, as they were essential for achieving security, prosperity and peace, he continued. For Bulgaria, protecting children’s rights was a priority, with a strong emphasis on inclusive education for children with disabilities. He also insisted on the empowerment of women and girls, promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, and combating antisemitism, Islamophobia and hate speech.
“We need a revitalized United Nations to effectively address the numerous challenges the world is facing today,” he said. Bulgaria, currently a member of the Human Rights Council, supported a comprehensive reform of the Organization and welcomes the Secretary-General’s report Our Common Agenda. He underscored his country’s commitment to fulfil its financial obligations to the Organization and expressed concern about its ongoing liquidity challenges, which undermined its ability to implement its mandates.
He recalled the United States diplomat, civil rights activist and Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche as saying that the Organization was the one great hope for a peaceful and free world. “I would like to add that the United Nations is our one great hope for safely steering the boat of our common destiny through the troubled and uncharted waters of our future — and we all must stand as one in its support,” he said.
HAKAINDE HICHILEMA, President of Zambia, said his people recently ushered in a new Government through a peaceful democratic election, at a time when the country and the world are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching socioeconomic impacts. Among other things, it has disturbed trade flows, supply chains and economic activities, caused loss of life, increased poverty, stressed health-care systems and prevented the delivery of education to learners — particularly in developing countries. While a key part of Zambia’s preparedness, mitigation and response plan is vaccination against COVID-19, it has only been able to vaccinate about 3 per cent of its population to date. “This clearly highlights the inequitable access to vaccines in developing countries,” he stressed, emphasizing that the global recovery hinges upon mass vaccinations across the globe.
Welcoming the Assembly’s focus on such crucial initiatives as the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust and the global COVAX facility, he called for concerted and enhanced global efforts to promote investments in local manufacturing capacity and technology transfer on vaccines, related infrastructure, human capital, and research and development. Meanwhile, Zambia’s new Government will work to strengthen oversight and governance institutions, fight corruption, and promote a free media and an active civil society. Among its highest priorities are the restoration of macroeconomic stability, the attainment of fiscal and debt sustainability, and the promotion of economic growth and diversification.
To complement those efforts, he said, Zambia has embarked on an ambitious economic and social transformation agenda, with a view to creating equitable opportunities and poverty reduction — especially youth and women. To that end, he described a range of interventions aimed at raising the country’s productivity in agriculture, mining, energy, financial services, tourism, technology, health and education. However, he stressed that the challenges facing the global economy are more complex than ever, marked by pandemics, climate change and illegal migration. “It is imperative that we adapt to these effects of globalization by fostering key partnerships and deepening integration at all levels,” he said, spotlighting the United Nations critical role.
In particular, he continued, the 2030 Agenda continues to “set the tone” and lay out benchmarks for countries to incorporate sustainability into their development policies. Closer cooperation and support for capacity-building is needed to adopt better, safer, more modern and climate change-sensitive methods of productivity. Silencing the guns also remains a critical priority and goes beyond addressing conventional warfare. It means addressing new emerging threats such as extremism, international terrorism, cybercrime, asymmetric warfare, and the proliferation of nonconventional weapons and organized crime. “As an international community, we need to continue to work together to address the root causes of these global threats,” he stressed.
He noted that Zambia also continues to play an active role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission in Mozambique — aimed at restoring peace to Cabo Delgado province — and stands committed to the Lusaka Master Roadmap to Silence the Guns in Africa. However, at the global level, it remains concerned with the slow pace of negotiations over reforming a more representative and democratic Security Council. In that vein, he reiterated the African common position, known as the “Ezulwini Consensus”, which calls for the continent and all other world regions to be fairly represented on the Council. Zambia remains committed to economic diplomacy and multilateralism through open and cordial relations with the international community, he concluded.
FAUSTIN ARCHANGE TOUADERA, Head of State of the Central African Republic, said the current General Assembly theme was one of “poignant topicality”, building resilience through hope. The pandemic crisis can only be overcome with more tangible international solidarity, he said, noting that despite limited resources, the Central African Republic has set about containing the crisis, which has jeopardized growth predictions for 2020 and 2021, as well as peacebuilding efforts. If the pandemic were to end within six months, the national economy will have lost 5.8 per cent of projected gross domestic product (GDP); if it drags on longer, the loss will be 8.9 per cent. His Government is working to safeguard financing of national development, aiming for a second programme with the IMF for 2020 to 2022. While the country must invest in a health-watch system and aim for collective immunity of the population, he stressed that universal access to vaccines for least developed countries must be an international security priority.
However, he noted other challenges remain, including preserving an environment threatened by emissions and atmospheric pollutions. Affirming that climate change is clearly caused by human activity, as “we consume more than nature can provide”, he pointed to excessive production of greenhouse gases causing floods and water shortages and overexploitation of fish stocks. Turning to the United Nations itself, he stressed that reform is required to maintain its position as the forum par excellence for multilateralism, especially the historic inequality depriving Africa of a permanent seat on the Security Council. The soul of the Charter of the United Nations is its respect for human rights, which is enshrined in the Central African Republic constitution.
Determined to fight impunity, he noted that after receiving a report from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), documenting human rights violations by national forces, the Government made efforts to shed all light possible through a special commission of inquiry established on 4 May 2021. Similarly, a Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission aims to make a major contribution to the peace process.
He emphasized his Government is committed to democracy, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons, and is preparing for the first local elections since 1988. In the interests of peace and reconciliation, he addressed armed forces of the Coalition of Patriots for Change that continue atrocities on civilians, calling for “unequivocal solidarity”, as national reconstruction requires reducing spoilers. Reiterating a call for the total lifting of the arms embargo, which unjustly weighs on national army efforts to protect the country, he also paid tribute to MINUSCA peacekeepers, Russian Federation and Rwandan forces, and participants of the African Union and European Union.
MOHAMED ABDULLAHI MOHAMED FARMAJO, President of Somalia, said building resilience through hope, hard work and multifaceted partnerships is essential for an equitable and holistic recovery from COVID-19, which laid bare a frighteningly unequal world. The different pace of response within nations and regional organizations highlighted the vast gap in opportunities between developed and developing States, with countries like Somalia still struggling to offer the vaccination to most citizens. “Responding to COVID-19 requires a renewed commitment to vaccinations for all,” he said, as “human safety is the cornerstone of any sustainable recovery from this disastrous health pandemic”. Somalia responded quickly with policies prioritizing citizens’ lives through medical provisions and information-sharing. Indeed, the pandemic galvanized the resilient Somali people, including the diaspora, private sector and international partners, to create opportunities to recover quickly and sustainably.
Highlighting paths towards recovery, he said efforts must be anchored on innovative and sustainable human-centred policies and strategies delivered in partnership across continents. In line with its national development plan, Somalia’s recovery strategy focuses on such core areas as rebuilding a strong, cohesive and fair society, underpinned by strong institutions and opportunities. Despite COVID-19’s heavy impact on Somalia’s economy, the Government remains undeterred in advancing reform, which in turn has enhanced trust with public and international partners that have provided much needed grant financing to mitigate the pandemic’s worst effects. Similarly, Somalia is committed to environmental protection, an urgent global priority, with efforts directed towards harnessing its enormous blue economy potential and protecting its many natural resources. However, Somalia faces the painful results of global warming, recurring droughts and floods, which are triggering food insecurity, lost livelihoods and displacement that weakens the traditional, rural, communal, economic networks the country has depended on for centuries.
Looking forward, it is the collective duty of all States, communities and individuals to respond to the needs of the planet, he said, expressing a strong belief in the international multilateral system’s enduring ability to deliver a better world for all. Cooperation, strategic collaboration and good governance are a must, as it is almost impossible for any nation to strive for progress and prosperity alone in this brave new world. Member States must work closely together to revitalize the United Nations — which remains the foremost multilateral institution for regular high-level dialogue and decisions — so that it can effectively play its mandated role of connecting countries in navigating the serious global challenges that threaten common development. Revitalizing the Organization includes reforming its governance structures, aligning a strategic focus on peacebuilding activities with the Sustainable Development Goals and strengthening public-private partnerships to overcome its financing challenges in this desperate time of global crisis and need, especially in the developing world.
For its part, he said, Somalia is working tirelessly to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by successfully confronting international terrorism, investing in basic public services, tackling corruption and promoting good governance and inclusive politics, including by finalizing the process of holding free, fair and inclusive elections. “To achieve sustainable development for all, we must also recognize and act on responding to the needs of our planet and creating a fairer society for all,” he said, emphasizing that, in the face of the pandemic’s enormous and continuing impact, particularly among the most vulnerable in the world, nations can recover from COVID-19 more sustainably through effective multifaceted partnerships, social solidarity and strong institutions.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).