Leaders from the Global South Call for Debt Relief, Access to Concessional Financing, While Others Urge Greater Investment in International Health System
Developing countries are suffering the brutal economic effects of COVID-19 disproportionately and require more comprehensive financing assistance in the wake of the pandemic, the General Assembly heard today as it continued its general debate with in-person and pre-recorded video messages from 29 Heads of State and Government.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, stressed the vital need to adopt more initiatives on development financing and debt relief to support developing countries so they can emerge from uncertainty. His country has suffered greatly due to the pandemic, he said. Tourism in particular, a sector that supports nearly 14 per cent of the population, has been devastated, along with small- and medium-sized businesses in many other sectors.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, also expressed concern about the current structure of global economic organizations, stressing that they have proved inadequate for developing countries. Calling for a constructive review based on equity, sustainability, and collective prosperity, he noted that if the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Health Organization (WHO) were created today, they would be very different institutions, as African and Caribbean nations were not present at their establishment. Indeed, key multilateral institutions must be repositioned to reflect inclusiveness and representative coverage with diverse leaders at the table. Admitting the African Union to an expanded Group of Twenty (G20) would have a galvanizing affect, he said, emphasizing that an increase in representation would redefine global policy and allow for a more inclusive, sustainable world.
Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of Suriname, urged that a post-COVID-19 strategy be developed, with a focus on improving vaccination levels, rebuilding economies, and setting up a recovery fund with the support of international financial institutions and the private sector. “Access to concessional financing is of critical importance in rebooting our economy,” he said, calling for support of the multidimensional vulnerability index, as proposed by the small island developing States.
Some leaders reported on their own positive development solutions in the wake of the economic crisis, with Andry Nirina Rajoelina, President of Madagascar, declaring: “We have seen we are not all equal” and countries such as his own have had to demonstrate ingenuity. “Our home-grown solutions were our best weapon in this fight,” he stressed. When people discuss developing countries, the “grim side of the story” is often foregrounded in the international arena. When speaking of Africa, there is a tendency to darken the reality. “It is time for this perception to change,” he said. “We must stop making use of these prejudices and move into new ideas.” Countries such as Madagascar dealt with the impact of COVID-19 better than expected. It adopted an optimistic attitude and put its development vision into practice, he said.
Ukhnaa Khurelsukh, President of Mongolia, said that thanks to the COVAX facility and support from other nations, 65 per cent of his country’s population is vaccinated. Meanwhile, the spread of COVID-19 is decreasing and the Government is working towards re-establishing normalcy in everyday life. The fact his country and many others in Asia went through the COVID-19 crisis without substantial human rights conflicts demonstrates the advantage of the region’s communalistic culture over an individualistic one, he said, adding that it also revealed that the health sector was just as important as defence, requiring better risk management and preparedness as well as greater investment.
Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, President of Honduras, raised concerns about fair access to COVID-19 vaccines and how countries are being treated unequally amid efforts to distribute doses in a prompt, effective manner. Noting that the COVAX mechanism had serious problems in ensuring fair distribution plans for all States, he said the global health system, including the WHO, must be transformed to improve the situation and guarantee timely and equitable access to vaccines.
Lazarus Mccarthy Chakwera, President of Malawi, said releasing the vaccines is the starting point to end the pandemic, as the world must now decide between a future of solidarity or one of greed, where States hoard life-saving doses. Citing reports that developed States now possess 500 million COVID-19 vaccines set to expire in 90 days, he said inoculation rates are less than 2 per cent among least developed countries and 16 member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). With limited access to vaccines, Malawi turned to prevention, wielding a response plan that brought three waves of the pandemic under control without imposing lockdowns. Describing another unlevel playing field, he said developed nations who pollute the planet must now pay the $100 billion “cleaning fees” they pledged in the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said that similar to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, fixing the climate change problem hinges on science, innovation and breakthroughs made possible by capitalism and free markets. For its part, the United Kingdom is keeping its promise to provide £11.6 billion to help the rest of the world tackle climate change, with contributions by other States bringing the $100 billion pledged to developing countries within touching distance. Looking ahead to the United Nations Climate Change summit in Glasgow in November, he declared: “it is time for humanity to grow up” and show that it is capable of learning, maturing and taking responsibility for the destruction it is inflicting on the planet and itself.
Also speaking today were the Presidents and Heads of State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Republic of Moldova, Uruguay, Estonia, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, Kenya, Indonesia, Ukraine, Cabo Verde, Viet Nam, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Djibouti, Kazakhstan, Spain and Norway.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 23 September, to resume its general debate.
ŽELJKO KOMŠIĆ, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the COVID-19 pandemic showed the vulnerability of the international system, but it also demonstrated the resilience of international institutions. He noted that the pandemic has widened the gap between developed and underdeveloped countries in access to medical equipment, medicines and vaccines. He emphasized the importance of bilateral cooperation and the critical assistance provided by neighbouring countries in the framework of the Central European Free Trade Agreement and the South-East European Regional Cooperation Council.
He stressed that circumstances have shed a new light on the Sustainable Development Goals and “climate change is no longer a matter of warnings from the scientific community”. However, developing countries do not have the resources to rapidly make the green transition a reality, and he called on the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the European Union to financially support this transition. He insisted that Bosnia and Herzegovina would stand behind its promise to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse‑gas emissions.
He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to protecting human rights for all its citizens. Yet, he regretted that the preservation of these rights was off track due to attempts to destabilize the country. He noted that its Constitution was based on the Dayton Peace Agreement ratified in 1995 and directly refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. He deplored that the equality of all individuals did not exist in the country with the existence of systematic discrimination and inequality depending on citizens’ ethnicity. This goes against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, he said.
Addressing other issues facing his country, he said that prosecuting war crimes should be a priority, and warned against political moves by neighbouring countries attempting to destabilize the Western Balkans by targeting Bosnia and Herzegovina. Emphasizing the responsibility to implement the Dayton Peace Agreement through the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, he called on his office to protect international legal acts and fundamental values in the country.
ABDULLAH II IBN AL HUSSEIN, King of Jordan, stressed that countries have a shared interest in responding effectively to the myriad of challenges the world faces. That requires collective action, and the emphasis must be on action.
Global partnership is critical to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one of the longest-standing conflicts in modern history, he said. The war on Gaza in 2020 was a reminder that the current situation is unsustainable. The suffering points to the critical need to keep supporting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as it continues to fulfil its mandate and provide vital humanitarian services to 5.7 million vulnerable Palestinian refugees. Genuine security for either side can only be achieved through the two-State solution and Jerusalem is at the heart of any peace. For its part, Jordan will continue working to preserve the historic and legal status quo of Jerusalem and its Islamic and Christian Holy Sites, under Hashemite custodianship.
Elsewhere in the region, Lebanon is facing a dire humanitarian and economic situation, he continued. Desperate living-conditions loom for millions, he cautioned, calling on the international community to give the Lebanese people its full support. As for the millions of refugees in host countries like Lebanon, he stressed that the well-being of those and the communities that host them remains an international responsibility. “Leaving people in need, innocents in jeopardy, and conflicts unresolved plays into the hands of global extremists, who exploit the despair, frustration and anger these crises leave in their wake.”
Turning to climate change, he emphasized that no country could combat the challenge on its own. Jordan is acutely aware of this as one of the water-poorest countries in the world. Its Green Growth National Action Plan is designed to ensure energy efficiency and strengthen resilience in water and agriculture. In that context, he called for regional networks of resiliency to pool resources and respond quickly to needs as they arise. Jordan stands ready to utilize the country's strategic location, at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, to facilitate the broadest international response.
ANDRY NIRINA RAJOELINA, President of Madagascar, addressing the Assembly with a message of solidarity, said the current aim is to find “the ways and means” to relaunch the world’s economies. He called for acting together to build a post-crisis world. Some 4.5 million people have died, a shocking figure, while the impact of the pandemic on the jobs market has been stark: 255 million people have lost their jobs, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Those in the informal sector are those worst affected. Middle classes are disappearing and the world economy is in serious recession, with forecasts of 5 per cent per capita income loss, tipping many more people into poverty.
“We have seen we are not all equal,” he said, and countries such as his own have had to demonstrate ingenuity. “Our home-grown solutions were our best weapon in this fight,” he said. When people discuss developing countries, the “grim side of the story” is often foregrounded in the international arena. When speaking of Africa, there is a tendency to darken the reality. “It is time for this perception to change,” he said. “We must stop making use of these prejudices and move into new ideas.” Countries such as Madagascar dealt with the impact of COVID-19 better than expected. It adopted an optimistic attitude — and put its development vision into practice.
Describing a process of deep-rooted transformation, he said Madagascar is investing in health infrastructure, with the goal of instituting health care for all, and building hospitals and health facilities in all regions. It is also building stadiums, gyms and an elite sports academy because “sports unite people”, he said. It is also building a new city — Tana-Masoandro — which will be a window to the Indian Ocean. The Government is building an urban train network, while work on a cable car system will start later in 2021. On the social front, 2.5 million — or 500,000 families — benefitted from monetary transfers during the pandemic, he said, stressing that “we have a vision and a programme and we are moving forward”. Indeed, Madagascar is entering a new age, with a new generation of leaders driven by patriotism and practical decision-making.
On the climate crisis, he said Madagascar is affected by recurrent drought and the drying of water sources, while subsistence activities are becoming almost impossible. In the south, people are paying a heavy price for a crisis they did not cause. Noting that the Government is building a pipeline to the southern region so those living there can irrigate land and grow crops, he said the establishment of health care, education, energy and security infrastructure is also underway. He called on each State to act in a way that is commensurate with their polluting activities.
He went on to stress that commitments for the decolonization of Madagascar were made by France in 1945, with independence achieved in 1960. Yet, the decolonization process has not been completed, because the issue of des Iles Éparses has not been resolved. In 1979, resolution 34/91 called on France to begin negotiations with Madagascar, and in 1980, the Assembly expressed disappointment that these talks had not been initiated. Forty-two years later, he and the President of France are working jointly on the issue and “I have every faith in a positive, just and peaceful outcome,” he said, expressing faith as well in the ability of Madagascar to chart its own destiny. “We must demonstrate responsible leadership,” he asserted, advocating for strengthening the role of the United Nations, committing to what unites, rather than what divides, and for solidarity among nations.
NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, President of Ghana, said that neither his country nor continent wish to be scars on anyone’s consciousness. Long experience has taught Africans that no matter how generous the charity, the people remain poor. Ghana, for its part, has seen an average growth rate of 7 per cent since 2017, which reflects its desire to build a nation beyond aid.
However, the pandemic’s impact on economies and livelihoods has been severe, and predictive models indicate that African economies have yet to return to pre‑pandemic levels, he cautioned. Vaccination is the way forward, but to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population, 900 million Africans need to receive doses. To that end, Africa has secured a $2 billion allocation for vaccines, a milestone in the fight against the pandemic, he reported. Indeed, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team is the single largest trade transaction since the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area in 2021. However, he expressed concern over recent entry measures by European countries regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine and warned that the use of vaccines as an immigration tool will be a regressive step.
The current structure of global economic organizations has proved inadequate for developing counties, he went on to say. Given the incapacity of the global economic system, he called for a constructive review based on equity, sustainability and collective prosperity. If the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Health Organization (WHO) were born today, they would be very different institutions, as African Caribbean nations were not present at their establishment. Strengthened funding is needed for existing world health organizations, as much as an additional 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Across Africa, where revenues have decreased, innovative financing must address structural challenges, he continued. IMF’s $650 billion Standard Gauge Railway allocation offers an opportunity to address the vast and surging inequities on the continent. “Now is the time for an African Marshall plan.” Moreover, proceeds of Standard Gauge Railway projects will help safeguard the stability of the continent. Furthermore, key multilateral institutions must be repositioned to reflect inclusiveness and representative coverage with diverse leaders at the table. Admitting the African Union to an expanded G20 would have a galvanizing affect, he said, emphasizing that an increase in representation would redefine global policy and allow for a more inclusive and sustainable world.
Turning to assaults on democracy, he pointed out that the last two years have seen conflicts across the world. In West Africa, events in Mali and Guinea have undermined the democratic Governments there. In response, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) foundation members have suspended membership for the two countries. However, it is vastly better that a Government with a democratic mandate be in the seat of Government in Mali and Guinea to take on the fight against terrorism in the region.
GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSA, President of Sri Lanka, said that his country has fully vaccinated nearly all people 30 years of age and older. That will be followed by a plan to fully vaccinate those aged 20 years and up by the end of October and those 15 years old or older shortly thereafter. Pointing to the severe economic impact of the pandemic, he stressed the vital need to adopt more initiatives on development financing and debt relief to support developing countries to emerge from uncertainty. Sri Lanka has suffered greatly due to the pandemic, he said, tourism in particular, a sector that supports nearly 14 per cent of the population, has been devastated, along with small and medium-sized businesses in many other sectors.
He further stressed that as a climate-vulnerable country, Sri Lanka has become a Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion and leads the Action Group on Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods. Through the adoption of the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, seeking to halve nitrogen waste by 2030, Sri Lanka has also contributed to global efforts to reduce environmental pollution, he continued. To create a more sustainable agriculture, the Government banned the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides earlier in 2021 and incentivized the production and adoption of organic fertilizer, as well as investments into organic agriculture.
Highlighting environmental conservation as one of his country’s priorities, he announced his Government’s plan to significantly increase forest cover in the coming decades, to clean and restore over 100 rivers countrywide, and to combat river and maritime pollution. Sri Lanka has also banned single use plastics and recognized the urgent need to reduce the use of fossil fuels and support decarbonization, together with an energy policy that seeks to increase the contribution of renewable sources to 70 per cent of its national needs by 2030.
Recalling the violent attack by extremist religious terrorists in 2019, following a 30-year separatist terrorist war, he said that his country is committed to combating extreme violence and addressing its root causes. “Fostering greater accountability, restorative justice and meaningful reconciliation through domestic institutions is essential to achieve lasting peace. So too is ensuring more equitable participation in the fruits of economic development,” he said, adding that Sri Lanka’s Parliament, judiciary and independent statutory bodies should have the unrestricted right to exercise their functions and responsibilities.
SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ AL-SAUD, King of Saudi Arabia, said today’s challenges require strengthened multilateral cooperation, as COVID-19 has shown that the road to recovery hinges on collaboration. Saudi Arabia has helped to lead the response, notably through its 2020 Presidency of the Group of 20, along with its $500 million contribution to international efforts and an additional $300 million to assist States. Recalling that Saudi Arabia is the largest donor of development and humanitarian assistance at the Arab and Islamic level, and among the top three largest donors internationally, he went on to describe its efforts with the Group of 20 and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Plus to confront the economic repercussions, as well as to ensure the stability of world oil markets and supplies, protecting the interests of consumers and producers alike.
On climate change, he cited the Saudi Green Initiative and the Green Middle East initiative, drawing attention to Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision, which aims to generate prosperity. “We want our economy to be a pioneering one, and our society to interact with all of the world,” he explained. The Government supports local industry, investing in information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and energy solutions, and enabling women and youth. He expressed support for dialogue and peaceful solutions, stressing wanting “to set up conditions conducive for development”. More broadly, he said Saudi Arabia strongly supports efforts to find a binding, peaceful solution to the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in a manner that protects the water rights of Egypt and Sudan. It also supports peaceful solutions, under United Nations auspices, to crises in Libya and Syria, and efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan, ensuring the rights of all parts of its society.
“Peace is the strategic choice of the Middle East region,” he explained, expressing support for a just solution on the issue of Palestine, based on the Arab Peace Initiative, ensuring Palestinian rights to establish an independent State along 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. In Yemen, terrorist Houthi militias reject peaceful solutions, and are instead placing their bets on a military one, with daily attacks on civilian targets, threatening international navigation and energy supplies. Their approach to the deteriorating Safer oil tanker is one of barter and blackmail.
Recalling Saudi Arabia’s respect for the sovereignty of all States, and underscoring the importance of non-intervention in States’ internal affairs, he said his country maintains its right to defend itself against missile and drone attacks, and categorically rejects any attempt to interfere in its internal affairs. On Iran, he expressed hope that initial talks will increase confidence-building measures to achieve the aspirations of both peoples for collaborative relations, based on principles and resolutions of international legitimacy, and the end of all support to terrorist groups and sectarian militias. The Middle East must be free of all weapons of mass destruction, he assured, expressing support for all efforts aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. He expressed concern about Iran’s steps that counter its commitments and daily assertions that its programme is peaceful.
ALEJANDRO GIAMMATTEI FALLA, President of Guatemala, stressed the need to immunize a critical mass of the world population against COVID-19, an effort that will require equitable access to the vaccine. The hoarding of vaccines by wealthier countries could result in increased risk for those very countries, he warned. Despite the daunting challenges, the pandemic highlighted the enormous capacity of humanity for resilience, he said.
In Guatemala, the Government continues efforts aimed at comprehensive development, including social programmes that protect life from conception through old age. As for the conservation of its environment, he pointed out that Guatemala experiences the greatest risk of climate change and highlighted efforts to rehabilitate infrastructure and agriculture systems in the wake of damaging hurricanes. In addition, it has been impacted by a constant increase in the price of fuel. In response, the country promotes the use of natural energy resources to reduce its dependency on imported fuel. The pandemic led to not only human loss but compromised food systems in Guatemala, he went on, outlining a national crusade for nutrition that includes programmes to support families with vegetable gardens and school farming.
Turning to the migration crisis, he called for the building of a “wall of prosperity”, so people have a desire to stay in their home countries. For its part, Guatemala has a stable economy with growth exceeding 4 per cent, making it a destination country for international investment, he said. The Government will continue to work to increase revenue and promote small Guatemalan businesses. However, the region continues to suffer from the scourge of drug trafficking which monopolizes resources that should be used for development. The demand exists for its consumers, especially in the United States, he stressed. Guatemala is working to fight the drug trade and successfully broke up 15 trafficking rings and destroyed thousands of cocaine, poppy and marijuana plants. Additionally, his country achieved a noteworthy reduction in maritime trafficking. Unfortunately, those successes don’t seem to be valued by the consuming countries, which bear the most responsibility. As such, he demanded support from international partners for more to be done to repatriate funds that leave Guatemala because of drug trafficking.
Guatemala must be recognized as a vulnerable region in terms of climate change and natural hazards, he went on, requesting the granting of secure parameters that will allow countries to rebuild infrastructure after such events. That will require an agreement from industrialized countries who are primarily responsible for climate change. For instance, the disastrous effects of climate change on Guatemala’s forests could be mitigated with contributions from industrialized States, he stressed.
As for the Security Council, it must be more objective and equitable, he said, and as a troop-contributing country, he called on the Council to be more consistent with its responsibility and role, particularly as it pertains to the veto. In closing, he stressed that assistance and cooperation between nations should never put self-determination or sovereignty at risk.
DAVID KABUA, President of the Marshall Islands, warned against forgetting the mistakes that had led to the last century’s open military conflicts, which otherwise were doomed to be repeated. “Leadership must come from all who are committed to act — small and large nations alike,” he said, drawing attention to an emerging security threat of the geopolitical competition with the world’s largest Powers faced by the Pacific islands. “Are we again to be caught in the middle of a tug-of-war?”, he asked, underlining his country’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and praising the recent Japan-Pacific lslands Defense Dialogue as a key confidence-building measure against an authoritarian influence.
The Marshall Islands remains committed to building a stronger Pacific islands region through institutions, which place its voice and leadership aspirations equal among others, he continued. “We cannot take a backseat to our own affairs,” he said, welcoming the strengthening of the Micronesian Presidents Summit in the North Pacific. He further voiced support for the Secretary‑General’s firm commitment to advancing discussion and action on United Nations system reform and to soon opening the new United Nations Multi-Country Office in the Federated States of Micronesia, dedicated to serve the five North Pacific island countries.
Despite his country’s “robust success” in vaccinating nearly every eligible person, he noted with regret that its borders remain largely closed due to the lack of capacity to address even small pandemic outbreaks and called for stepping up efforts to address social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on small and remote island nations. Turning to the threat posed by climate change to the security and well-being of the Pacific region, he said “the world, especially the most vulnerable, could not afford a failure to hold temperature rise to below 1.5°C”. He further called for an appointment of a Special Rapporteur on climate change and declared: “The world simply cannot delay climate ambition any further.” Against that backdrop, he reminded the international community about the legacy of nuclear tests, which remain “a very contemporary threat in our waters, our lands and our bodies”, and emphasized that “no effort should be spared to move towards a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear risk”.
As a nation comprising many islands, he pointed to the need for a comprehensive approach to addressing a multitude of issues faced by ocean nations, noting that “yet, far too often, nations seek to avoid accountability and try to hide behind political muscle or use […] colonial legacies or development challenges as excuses for forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings or to suppress basic political expression”, and expressed a strong concern over the human rights issues in the Xianxing region of China, as well as recent developments in Hong Kong. He went on to underline that “Taiwan” should be allowed “to participate in an equal and dignified manner within the United Nations system”.
MAIA SANDU, President of the Republic of Moldova, emphasizing the importance of multilateralism, pointed out that the world today faces extraordinary challenges, which spill over national borders and can only be solved together. Outlining several global challenges, she added that her country had experienced some of them first-hand and was ready to work with the United Nations and the international community to find sustainable solutions.
On the pandemic, she noted that the Republic of Moldova had witnessed global solidarity that helped her country contain the virus. “We now have a sufficient supply of vaccines for our citizens,” she said, adding that the greatest task ahead was to promote immunization, relaunch economies and reopen society. Turning to climate change, she spotlighted her country’s low footprint, adding that she pledged to keep that level in a sustainable manner by undertaking concrete actions, including the expansion of forests, transitioning to a green economy and promoting clean energy, as well as preserving water and land resources.
She went on to express serious concern regarding the deteriorating security situation in the Black Sea region. Stressing that the Republic of Moldova was a State committed to peace, she added: “We remain firmly committed to identifying a peaceful, political solution to the conflict in the Transnistrian region of our country, based on Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.” Underlining confidence-building measures that emphasize the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in the region, she said that her country’s position on the complete and unconditional withdrawal of the Russian forces and the removal or destruction of ammunitions from the Cobasna stockpiles remained unchanged. “We count on the support of the international community in this endeavour,” she said, drawing attention to the security and environmental threat posed by these ammunitions.
Against that backdrop, she also called attention to the dangers posed by disinformation to the rules-based international order, urging that a global conversation take place to look for concrete solutions. Another factor eroding democracy and undermining people’s trust was corruption that disproportionately affected poor States. Referring to the recent past, when corruption transformed the Republic of Moldova into a captured State, she pointed to her country’s experience overthrowing corrupt regimes and urged that the international community design, apply and rigorously monitor systems to promote international transparency and accountability. “We need to join efforts to combat money-laundering and investigate illicit financial flows,” she said, outlining the Republic of Moldova’s recent progress in reforming the justice sector, launching a significant infrastructure build-up and on connecting her country to the rest of Europe.
Underlining the complexity of global challenges, she saluted the Secretary‑General’s report, Our Common Agenda, as a forward-looking blueprint for an enhanced global cooperation to effectively address the common challenges. “Only through solidarity and closer international cooperation we will […] be able to overcome current and emerging challenges,” she stated.
LUIS LACALLE POU, President of Uruguay, said there was no plan for confronting the pandemic. Each country developed its own formula for doing so. Noting that COVID-19 revealed weaknesses and strengths, he acknowledged the great work of scientists and researchers, teachers and professors who devised ways to provide education. Work changed in a unique way. “In short, humanity showed its capacity to adapt and survive a crisis of such dimensions,” he said. That is the best version of the story. However, the pandemic also revealed the structural inequities and ethical issues within all societies.
Emphasizing that Uruguay has an immense “democratic vocation” and values individual freedom, defined as the purest state of the individual, he said the pandemic also revealed unequal access to various tools. What “landed with a thud” is the false dichotomy between the presence of the State and individual freedom. In some countries, the State protected the most vulnerable and gave them access to tools to exercise their freedom, he said, noting that internal policies often have external repercussions. Freedom cannot be conceived without conceiving of it with responsibility and solidarity. In Uruguay, people showed that with the use of responsible freedom, they were able to manage a significant part of the pandemic without major reversals. Solidarity of community was present in many great acts and reflected in acts unknown to the larger public.
At the international level, he said there was a race against time to develop vaccines, which ultimately were developed in record time — and yet, there was a shortage of supply. A country had to “go out and buy for itself”, he emphasized, an important point, as the vaccine is vital for recovering freedom in all countries. Also during the pandemic, countries needed the freedom to trade, compete and access markets. As Uruguay is opening more to the world, he called for coordination among the world blocs and great powers. There were violations of human rights by Governments too. “We cannot remain silent about these violations,” he said, stressing that the abuse of power is a detriment to freedom and pointing out that some Governments are afraid of their own people. He closed by calling for the creation of finance mechanisms so that countries can make progress on sustainable development.
KERSTI KALJULAID, President of Estonia, underscored that the climate emergency was at least as dangerous to humanity as the pandemic, which had brought an international concerted effort to develop vaccines. With that in mind, she drew attention to the World Clean-Up Day initiative launched by Estonia citizens in 2008. In the last three years, more than 50 million people around the world joined this initiative, making it “one of the biggest civic movements of our time, uniting about 160 countries across the world”, she said.
Recalling her recent visit to Afghanistan, she expressed concern for the future of that country’s people. Almost half of its population, more than 18 million, including women and children, was in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. As the United Nations Global Advocate for Every Woman, Every Child, she said that it was disheartening that the progress made during the past two decades had been reverted so quickly.
Turning to the impact of COVID-19, she pointed out that the opportunities for women and children globally had been hit hardest by the pandemic, including women’s participation in the workforce, inaccessible health care and the number of children deprived of school meals. Even prior to the pandemic, “we were not on track to reach our SDG goal of zero hunger by 2030”, she noted. To that end, Estonia was contributing at least 900,000 doses of vaccines — for every adult in her country who received a vaccine, a vaccine would be donated to someone else in the world.
Estonia was also launching the Data for the Environment Alliance during the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly in February 2022, she announced. The Alliance would support the creation of global environmental data strategy for 2025 that had been agreed upon by States in 2019. Describing digital transformation as an equalizer that made countries more efficient, she said that Estonia and Singapore co-sponsored the Global Declaration on the Digital Response to COVID-19 last year. In addition, as an elected member of the Security Council, Estonia hosted the very first official discussion on cybersecurity in the Council earlier this year.
Legal frameworks were of utmost importance, she stressed, but also needed were empathy, the rule of law and good governance, among others. It was crucial to not forget the events in Belarus, the occupied Crimean Peninsula and the situation in eastern Ukraine. Noting that Estonia would be hosting the next Global Conference for Media Freedom in order to boost the synergies of Internet and media freedom, she also added that her country would continue to support the rights of women and girls, particularly on fighting sexual and gender-based violence and the protection of children in armed conflicts.
CHANDRIKAPERSAD SANTOKHI, President of Suriname, said the unpredictable turns of the global political and economic landscape demonstrated that multilateral cooperation, international solidarity and concrete action were needed more than ever. Underscoring that all these interconnected challenges could be considered a puzzle, with pieces found in different countries, he urged Member States “to work together to solve this puzzle and secure the future of our planet”.
Turning to COVID-19, he noted with regret that multilateralism and international solidarity came under pressure during the pandemic, while the principle of collective effort and responsibility was replaced by a more individual approach. While highlighting the importance of using science and technology for peaceful purposes, he further urged that a post-COVID-19 strategy be developed, with a focus on improving vaccination levels, rebuilding the economy and setting up a recovery fund with the support of international financial institutions and the private sector. “Access to concessional financing is of critical importance in rebooting our economy,” he said, calling for support of the multidimensional vulnerability index, as proposed by the small island developing States, and for the removal of bureaucracy in supporting these States.
Joining the call for a stronger and more effective United Nations, he stated that societies should be organized based on democratic values, good governance, an independent judiciary and respect for human rights. This could be achieved if States were able to develop sustainable economies without obstacles, especially amidst the pandemic.
Climate change remains an existential threat, he said, urging the global community to acknowledge the unique challenges faced by the high forest and low deforestation developing countries. Those States needed improved access to climate finance. Referring to the upcoming climate change conference, he expressed hope that it would result in ambitious and actionable commitments to support developing countries as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement. To this end, he stressed the importance of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization and the need to support its activities aimed at protecting the Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity. “It is our obligation, as leaders of today, to build a better world and planet for those living today, but more so for those generations still to come,” he said.
JULIUS MAADA BIO, President of Sierra Leone, expressed his support to all multilateral initiatives battling the pandemic and mitigating its long-term effects. The theme of the General Assembly’s seventy-sixth session was most appropriate, given the issues the world was facing. He was confident that multilateral institutions would find a solution to bring the world out of the pandemic, he said.
Commenting on the recent developments in Sierra Leone, he praised the country’s efforts to improve fiscal resilience through economic diversification. It was being achieved by creating a business-friendly environment and tackling corruption. Adding that Sierra Leone has been actively fighting the pandemic, he thanked China, France, United States and the COVAX initiative for supplying his country with vaccines.
The Government was continuing to remove threats to democratic freedoms, he continued, pointing to the repealing of a century-old seditious libel law. An independent commission for peace and social inclusion had also been established. More so, no politician nor journalist was in jail for conducting his or her profession, he pointed out, adding that the death penalty had also been abolished. Education programmes were being rolled out through special grants. Diseases, such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, had been tamed through various initiatives. In addition, vulnerable populations during the pandemic were being given support and work on gender equality was being moved forward, with survivors of sexual violence being provided access to justice. In that regard, he requested the General Assembly to sponsor a resolution on sexual violence.
Sierra Leone was committed to the fight against climate change and would be present at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow. On a national platform, the Government established a commission to address the full impact of climate change. He called for an international fund to support the transition to greener economies and improve resilience against climate change shocks. There was also a need to create a green climate fund to meet the $100 billion target to support the mitigation and adaptation plans of developing countries. He called for greater United Nations collaboration with the African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to usher in a more peaceful subregion, drawing attention to his country’s leadership of the Group of Seven Plus.
Hierarchies of power between nations should be eradicated and dialogue among equals should be established, he emphasized. States should map out fresh approaches to advance the decolonization agenda, in line with Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960. Africa represented 54 nations and 1.2 billion people, and with that in mind, he requested that the Security Council be reformed to become more representative, transparent, and accountable. The legitimate recognition for Africa to play its role on the global stage should be recognized by granting it two seats in the Security Council, including the right for veto, along with two non-permanent seats, as well.
NICOLÁS MADURO MOROS, President of Venezuela, called for building a new world of peace through dialogue that respected the ideological, religious and political diversity of all peoples. That world must be free of hegemonic empires, liberated from any attempts at economic and military domination, including from those who oppressed peoples for centuries with rapacious colonialism. Noting that some States still attempted to oppress others, he called for an end to colonialism, issuing a rallying cry for a “multipolar, pluricentric world” to the peoples of the South in the Non-Aligned Movement doctrine.
Citing support and solidarity from dozens of countries at the United Nations in recent years, he denounced the merciless campaign against the country by elites governing the United States. It was being carried out with the complicity of organizations in Europe and elsewhere, seeking to manipulate international bodies and laws to justify its criminal aggressions. Further, that permanent systematic aggression was being waged through cruel oil sanctions, a fierce assault on the right to buy what the country needed and sell what it produced. Vast oil and mining wealth had been targeted, with bank accounts and gold held in legal reserves at the Bank of England seized and billions of dollars in the United States and Europe frozen. “This is financial, monetary and economic persecution,” he stated.
However, he noted that 2021 is a special one for his country, marking 200 years since the victory of the Battle of Carabobo for independence. Venezuela was now progressing towards recovery and growth in science, innovation and technology, with its “free, rebellious people” unleashing strengths despite the hellish blockade, he said. Such efforts were an example to all peoples that “yes we can” stand up to imperialist aggressions and prosper. Demanding that all sanctions against Venezuela by the United States and European Union be lifted, he expressed support for and solidarity with Cuba and their own demand that all elements of that economic and trade embargo be lifted — a call, he noted, which has been supported by a majority of United Nations votes on 27 occasions.
He cited a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and human rights earlier this year, whose report recommended sanctions be immediately lifted. Noting recent progress towards inclusive dialogue for peace in country, he pointed to upcoming November elections, the twenty-ninth in 20 years. There were also talks to bring back to the negotiation process even the most extreme elements of the opposition. Those who attempted a coup d’état, foreign invasion and even his own assassination have been brought back into the political process, he pointed out.
Turning to climate change, he said the world required a practical, verifiable way to curb greenhouse‑gas emissions and warming seas, noting recent flooding even in New York. The international community must follow the multilateral system of a new United Nations, he emphasized, highlighting a new world emerging in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean that must prevent some States from becoming the world’s policemen and judges.
UKHNAA KHURELSUKH, President of Mongolia, said that the fact his country and many others in Asia went through the COVID-19 crisis without substantial human rights conflicts demonstrates the advantage of the region’s communalistic culture over an individualistic one. It also revealed that the health sector was just as important as defence, requiring better risk management and preparedness, as well as greater investment. Thanks to the COVAX Facility and support from other countries, 65 per cent of Mongolia’s population is vaccinated. The spread of COVID-19 is decreasing, and the Government is taking steps to return the country to normal life.
Noting that this year marks the centennial of Mongolia’s people’s revolution, he said that his country’s diplomatic relations with 193 countries, membership in more than 70 international organizations and accession to more than 290 treaties demonstrate its growing role in international affairs. He thanked the United Nations’ significant contribution to Mongolia’s development, including its support through the pandemic and during repeated winter calamities. Recalling that Mongolia declared itself a nuclear-weapon-free zone in 1992, he said it is striving to become a trade and transit hub between Asia and Europe. It is also committed to regional economic integration.
“This horrendous phenomenon called war must be completely eliminated,” and conflicts must be resolved through peaceful means, he stated. Many believe that Chinggis Khan was a vicious man who conquered many nations, but in fact history shows that he was a diplomat and peacemaker. For almost 200 hears, Pax Mongolica prevailed over the great chessboard of Eurasia. Recalling his country’s peaceful transition to democracy in 1990, he proposed that 2 September — the anniversary of the end of the Second World War — be observed as an international day to mark humanity’s victory over war. He added that Mongolia, a troop contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations, will host an international conference on female peacekeeping in 2022.
Due to the pandemic, Mongolia’s economy contracted by 4.5 per cent in 2020, but it is expected to grow by 4.8 per cent in 2021‑2022, he said. International financial organizations observed that the Government’s budgetary and fiscal measures protected the economy better than those of some developed countries. Going forward, the Government will focus on structural reforms, economic diversification, investment promotion and maintaining fiscal and financial stability. It also aims to reduce corruption and to become a “digital nation” by 2024, transferring almost all its public services online.
Turning to climate change, he said that lessons can be drawn from Mongolia’s nomadic heritage, combining respect for nature with the achievements of modern science and technology. Sandstorms are becoming a major problem for Mongolia, with a 2.2°C increase in the mean temperature and a 7 per cent decline in annual precipitation in the last 80 years, leading to land degradation and desertification. “The most efficient way to reverse desertification is by planting trees,” he pointed out. In that regard, a national campaign is under way to plant billions of trees by 2030. Ahead of COP26, he urged fellow world leaders to do more to combat climate change and build environmentally friendly societies and economies.
UHURU KENYATTA, President of Kenya, said that the world must take the Secretary-General seriously when he says that humanity faces a stark and urgent choice between breakdown and breakthrough. Immediate action must be taken to put equitable access to vaccines at the heart of pandemic recovery. Tangible climate financial support must be extended to developing countries and conflict resolution tools must be realigned to address a strategic shift in regional and international peace and security.
Elaborating on those points, he said that Kenya’s pandemic death toll of nearly 5,000, though distressing, pales in comparison to other parts of the world. However, the economic pain was pronounced. Rebuilding successfully will require confidence and investment to bring production and consumption back to pre-pandemic levels. A fast-developing Africa will offer the entire world the benefit of its youthful population and vast investment opportunities, making the continent an engine of sustainable global growth and an exporter of peace, stability and transformative prosperity.
Kenya has mounted a strong response to climate change that includes a blueprint to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 32 per cent by 2030 and a Green Economy Strategy and Implement Plan for the period 2016-2030, he continued. It has identified several ocean-based adaption priorities and it looks forward to co-hosting, with Portugal, the second United Nations Ocean Conference in June 2022. Domestically, Kenya — one of Africa’s most vibrant mixed economies — is focusing on the immediate needs of its people, he added, emphasizing that by 2022 it will have reduced malnutrition among children under the age of five by 27 per cent.
The inaugural Africa-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit, recently hosted by Kenya, was a historic moment that underscored the critical need for peoples of African descent to strengthen their economic and political links, he said. However, a common theme at such events is a collective conviction that the global system is not working well for all peoples and all regions. As Security Council president for October, Kenya will turn a spotlight on diversity as a means to promote State-building and the pursuit of peace, the impact of small arms and light weapons on peacekeeping operations, and ways to better support and promote women peacekeepers and peacebuilders, he said.
The international community must improve their capabilities to confront militant and terrorist groups, he continued. The most important task is to increase the competence of States to manage political and social diversity in a way that strengthens trust between citizens, their leaders and public institutions. Kenya’s own tough experiences, and its determination to rise above its challenges, provide a good case study for others. He concluded by saying that Kenyans must appreciate how their country is held in high regard in the community of nations. They must not forget the hand of friendship extended to them by other States, Kenya’s contribution to the international community, and those countries which continue to struggle against occupation and illegal sanctions, he said.
JUAN ORLANDO HERNÁNDEZ ALVARADO, President of Honduras, highlighting national concerns, from climate change to fair access to vaccines, outlined his country’s achievements since 2010. Pointing out that the COVAX mechanism had serious problems in ensuring fair distribution plans for all States, he said the world health system, including WHO, must be transformed to improve the situation and guarantee timely and equitable access to vaccines. In 2020, the pandemic and two hurricanes struck Honduras, causing $4 billion in damages and job losses and deeply impacting the health of its people.
He also noted that, even though more than 50 per cent of its land is covered by forests, Honduras remains among those most affected by climate change. National efforts, from rainwater collection to boosting agricultural productivity by using less land, are making inroads, but green climate funds are not reaching countries as they should, with a lack of political will remaining a serious obstacle. Reiterating the need for a climate change centre to eliminate bureaucracy and get funds to countries requesting them, he summarized a range of national experiences in tackling environmental challenges.
More broadly, Honduras today is a different country from less than a decade ago, he said, adding that the country has among the best national economic figures in the region, achieved in part with support from IMF and other partners. Infrastructure projects are modernizing airports and linking the two oceans. Manufacturing growth has climbed 70 per cent, anti-corruption initiatives are under way and other sectors have been making gains over the last eight years. Tourism, now generating more than 270,000 jobs, is blossoming, as Honduras now receives some of the largest cruise liners in the world. A better life ultimately means dignity and improving living conditions for people, he said, adding that targeted initiatives have encouraged small business owners, built 46,000 houses and adopted social programmes to reach those who had been previously overlooked.
He also recalled that, prior to his election as President, Honduras was a transit hub for most of the illicit drugs trafficked into the United States. In 2010, the Government adopted measures to crack down on such crimes, reducing drug trafficking through its territory by 96 per cent and dismantling the major cartels. Simultaneous efforts were made to arrest a number of police officers suspected of involvement with trafficking, with the homicide rate subsequently dropping drastically. Highlighting several details of related investigations, he said secret recordings of drug traffickers are now available to the public, including transcripts currently being used in court cases against suspects. In fact, writers of a related Netflix film are now using these transcripts to show how drug traffickers operate. Included in those transcripts were discussions on how best to assassinate him, he said, adding that the criminals have since been captured and brought to justice. “They knew [that], with me as President, they were not able to survive; they were right,” he remarked.
He went on to raise grave concerns about reports that drug traffickers were receiving benefits for falsely testifying. Giving rewards for perjury to killers who have confessed to dozens of homicides and other crimes destabilizes the system for international cooperation on holding perpetrators accountable, he emphasized, adding that this trend would introduce systematic corruption into the pursuit of justice. Referring to several recent cases, he said that, if perpetrators commit perjury in order to be recompensated by the United States, this would then mean putting dangerous weapons in the hands of a mortal enemy. In addition, this practice would crumble confidence in the international anti-trafficking alliance and among many countries like Honduras, which remains committed to stamp out the illicit drug trade. He trusted that the United States would not provide any kind of reward to perpetrators to deliver false testimonies in these cases, he said. In closing, he emphasized that he intends to leave Honduras to his successor in 2022 a safer country than in the past, for the benefit of the current and future generations.
JOKO WIDODO, President of Indonesia, pointing out that the world community looks towards the General Assembly to provide answers to major global concerns, stressed: “We must bring hope that we can tackle the COVID-19 pandemic swiftly, fairly, and equally. We know that no one is safe until everyone is.” The capacity and pace among countries to tackle COVID-19 differs widely and politicization of the vaccine continues. These issues must be solved with concrete steps. In the future, the global health security architecture and the global health security system must be reorganized. He also called for new mechanisms to mobilize global health resources — financing, vaccines, medicines, medical equipment, as well as health-care workers worldwide — quickly and fairly, as well as establishment of a standardized global health protocol in cross-border activities, such as vaccines criteria, test results and other medical conditions. “Global economic recovery can only be attained if the pandemic is under control and countries join hands in helping one another,” he said.
Indonesia, along with other developing countries, embraces quality investments, which open up many job opportunities, technology transfer, human resources development, and contribute to sustainability, he said, adding: “Indonesia’s commitment towards climate resilience, low carbon development and green technology is firm and clear.” The energy and technology transformation process must facilitate the participation of developing countries in industrial development and technology production. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of the importance of diversifying production centres around the world.
Furthermore, the international community must be “stern” in fighting intolerance, conflicts, terrorism and war, he said. Diversity and the protection of women’s and minority rights must be upheld. Concerns regarding the marginalization of women and violence in Afghanistan, Palestine’s elusive independence, and the political crisis in Myanmar must be on the common agenda. He added that the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Jakarta and agreed on the Five Points Consensus; its implementation requires the full commitment of the Myanmar military.
The General Assembly must provide hope for the world’s future, fulfilling the international community’s expectations with concrete steps and tangible results. In 2022, Indonesia will assume the Group of Twenty (G20) presidency, under the theme of “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”. Inclusiveness will be the main priority. “This is Indonesia's commitment to show that no one is left behind,” he said. Green and sustainable economy will also be a priority. Aware of its strategic place regarding climate change, his country will continue to work hard to fulfil related commitments. In 2020, Indonesia reduced its forest fires by 82 per cent and deforestation has dropped significantly to its lowest level in 20 years. “At the global level, Indonesia will put forward burden sharing, not burden shifting,” he said, reiterating support for and hope in multilateralism. “Let us work together to recover together, recover stronger.”
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, President of Ukraine, said that if Member States want to reanimate the United Nations, they must start with its Charter, which does not contain the words “each shall fend for themselves”. While it is time for the international community to wake up, “Ukraine never slept — it’s hard to do that to the sound of explosions and gunfire”. Referring to the occupied Donbas territory, he noted 15,000 lives have been lost in the conflict. “That is the price of freedom,” he stated. The United Nations should become more mobile and agile, and present in places where it can witness global problems. Citing Ukrainian troop evacuations from Afghanistan, including of media representatives from Canada, he noted: “this is genuine commitment to the fundamental principles of the United Nations.”
With 46 States supporting Ukraine’s Crimean Platform initiative on de-occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula, he said that if Member States are to reform the United Nations, “there are no untouchables in this forum of 193 equal nations.” Stating that “national sovereignty is the freedom to choose a destiny for a people and nation,” he noted he was quoting in Russian from a speech by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin from 2007. He called for the release of a Tatar political scientist and journalist, detained in September by the Russian Federation and charged with an attempted gas pipeline explosion earlier, as well as the release of 450 Ukrainians unlawfully detained in the temporarily occupied territories. While expressing appreciation that the occupation has been included as an item on the General Assembly agenda, he asked: “How could it not be?”
Crimea hosted the Yalta Conference in 1946, he recalled, setting the foundation for world peace and the creation of the United Nations. He asked how the United Nations can be reanimated when the very cradle of its founding is occupied by a Member State. Referring to protection of the environment in the context of Crimea, he said the issue is addressing not flora and fauna but navy and soldiers. For Ukrainians, the biggest problem is not global warming but global devastation, while the international community acts not as leaders but politicians.
While the Russian Federation issues passports to Ukrainians, he stated the Crimea Platform should operate under the auspices of the United Nations, which “is not this building, but leaders”. “The United Nations is like a retired superhero who has forgotten how great they once were,” he stated. Recalling initiatives, including providing access to drinking water for 1 billion people, eradicating apartheid, the work of the “Blue Helmets”, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) — protecting 1154 unique world heritage sites — and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), he stressed: “It will never be banal or outdated to call for unity for their sake”.
LAZARUS MCCARTHY CHAKWERA, President of Malawi, pointing out that over 3 million babies will be born during the seven days of the General Assembly debate, stressed: “We must choose for our children a future of zero carbon emissions, or a future of daily climate catastrophes.” As well, the international community must choose for those 3 million infants a future of solidarity that transcends borders and national identities in times of global crisis, or a future of greed that hoarded life-saving vaccines in one hemisphere, while the other hemisphere is robbed of its raw materials and left perishing. In that light, he called for the world to respond to four crises: the climate crisis, the pandemic, sustainable development and the United Nations Governance crisis.
“It’s been over 10 years since the developed nations that polluted our planet the most pledged $100 billion towards climate mitigation and adaptation,” he continued. These were the nations telling the rest of the world to follow their example. “It’s time to show that leadership,” he said, adding that such monies were not a donation. “This is a cleaning fee, because if you pollute the planet we all call home, it is only right that you should pay to clean it up,” he said.
The starting point for ending the pandemic was to release the vaccines, he said. It was reported that half a billion vaccine doses were being kept by developed countries and would be expiring in three months. In most of the 46 Member States of the least developed countries and the 16 member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), vaccination rates were below 2 per cent. “With such limited access to vaccines, we have had to make the most of preventive measures,” he said, noting that his Government brought three waves of the pandemic under control without the use of lockdowns. Malawi constructed and staffed recovery centres in record time to treat COVID-19 patients and registered a recovery rate of over 85 per cent. Furthermore, the country cut infection rates down from 40 per cent to less than 5 per cent and kept the death toll below 3000. In addition, monthly cash transfers were disseminated to support thousands of households impacted by a loss of income because of the pandemic.
“As a global community, we are off track on a number of Sustainable Development Goals, and there is no path of progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda that does not involve working together across borders, across sectors, and across SDGs,” he said. To that end, his country hosted the forty-first Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government, in which it shared what it had learned successfully implementing the Affordable Inputs Programme, which increased food production by 21 per cent in its first season. Malawi also hosted the Summit for Heads of State from Africa and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), he noted, adding that Malawi is one of eight nations that are Global Champions on Sustainable Development Goal 7 to achieve clean energy for all by 2030. However, even though his country has a 10-year implementation plan for achieving Agenda 2030, much of that plan cannot be done in isolation, he stressed.
In a world that needs multilateralism, the United Nations must be the gold standard of democracy, accountability, transparency and equity, he stated. One reform urgently needed was the implementation of the African Union’s Ezulwini Consensus, which demands two permanent seats for Africa, with veto power, on the Security Council and five non-permanent seats. “It is time for the United Nations to practice the democratic values it preaches. That is the UN we want for the millions of newborns entering the troubled world we have created, because that is the UN they can trust to create a better world,” he declared.
JORGE CARLOS DE ALMEIDA FONSECA, President of Cabo Verde, said that the fact that the General Assembly was meeting in person again was a sign of the international community’s determination to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and build a more resilient world. Pointing to the Secretary-General’s report “Our Common Agenda”, he said that Cabo Verde has no doubt about the future it wants. He added his support for the proposal for a Summit of the Future in 2023 to forge a new global consensus of what the future should look like and how it can be ensured.
Cabo Verde graduated to middle-income status in 2008, achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and aligned itself with the Sustainable Development Goals, he noted. However, the pandemic triggered a 14.8 per cent reduction in economic growth. To that end, his country responded by defining a common vision called Cabo Verde 2030 to draw upon lessons learned and rebuild better. The priority is to fight COVID-19, and, to that end, 74 per cent of the eligible population has been vaccinated. The reciprocal recognition of vaccine certificates and the revision of travel warning has enabled Cabo Verde to support the return of tourists, he added.
He called for the adoption of a multidimensional vulnerability index for small island developing States like Cabo Verde that would assist the effective implementation of the commitments laid out in the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA Pathway). The challenges faced by small island developing States, and solutions to those problems, should be included in the Summit of the Future, with opportunities for them to make decisions that meet their legitimate interests and aspirations, he said.
Revitalizing the United Nations means reforming the Security Council, he said, emphasizing that Cabo Verde, as an African Union member, subscribed to the Ezulwini Consensus. The pandemic is part of a chain of other crises, including climate change and geopolitical conflicts, which, due to their interconnected nature, has accentuated the gap between the haves and have-nots. “The missing link between crisis and opportunity lies in the exercise of greater global solidarity” and creating solutions to build “the future we want” and “the United Nations we need,” he stressed.
Although “the future we want” is inscribed in the Charter of the United Nations, the question of “the United Nations we need” has always been a subject for debate, he continued. Results achieved so far by the United Nations system could be vastly improved in all areas through collective action. Strengthened multilateralism is the way forward. With his second term in office coming to an end, he also noted that this would be his last address to the Assembly as Head of State, adding that he will have good memories of the hall.
NGUYEN XUAN PHUC, State President of Viet Nam, said that no statistics can truly measure the grief and loss caused by the pandemic, which has exposed the shortcomings of the global governance system and increased inequality among nations. COVID-19 is not, however, the only challenge that the world is facing today, he said, pointing to growing tensions among major Powers, the rise of power politics, disregard for international law and unilateral acts of coercion. In this context, international solidarity and multilateralism are important, with the United Nations coordinating efforts to respond to challenges that no one country can resolve on its own, he said.
Containing the spread of COVID-19 is the most urgent task, he said, emphasizing that “the world cannot be safe if any single person or country still suffers from this pandemic”. Priority in the allocation of vaccines should go to those nations with a low vaccination rate and developing countries should have the ability to produce vaccines. Resilience can only be sustainable if it is built upon cooperation and connectivity among nations. Hopefully, Member States will keep working with the United Nations system in that regard, he noted.
Challenges must be turned into development opportunities, he continued, underscoring the promise of digitalization, new technologies and enhanced productivity, competitiveness and economic self-reliance. Describing the 2030 Agenda as an excellent road map, he called on all countries to fulfil their development financing obligations, reschedule debt payments for developing countries and give those countries the resources they need to overcome the pandemic.
Turning to the climate crisis, he said that developed countries should take the lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, while developing countries should get more financial and technological help to reduce their emissions, strengthen disaster prevention and transition towards a green economy. All countries must strive towards a global ceasefire and a halt to all violence, while also ensuring the safety of civilians and facilitating humanitarian assistance in conflict zones. He called for an end to the unilateral and illegal embargo against Cuba, expressed solidarity with Palestinians and support for a two-State solution in the Middle East, and hoped that the situation in Afghanistan will stabilize soon.
After 30 years of Đổi Mới, or economic reforms, Viet Nam is on track to become a high-income developed country by 2045, the centenary of its independence, he said. Its people-centred approach is closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, with the fruits of its reforms due in part to efforts by the United Nations development system. Viet Nam is working closely with other ASEAN members to maintain peace, security and prosperity in the region, including by implementing ASEAN’s five-point consensus on Myanmar. In the South China Sea, all parties should refrain from actions that might further complicate the situation. Disputes should be resolved peacefully, in line with the United Nations Charter, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, he said.
FAURE ESSOZIMNA GNASSINGBÉ, President of Togo, said this year’s topic is a call to immediate action in health care, to stop the pandemic and tackle the social and economic damage it has wrought. The serious uptick in poverty and increased gap between developed and developing States mean that, according to the World Bank, the pandemic triggered the first recession in sub-Saharan Africa in the last 25 years — particularly worrying in countries with fragile economies. Given the urgency of seriously considering the indebtedness of developing countries, he welcomed last year’s G20 approval of the Debt Services Suspension Initiative but urged the international community to consider conclusions that emerged from the Paris summit on funding African economies towards recovery.
He noted the gap in vaccine access remains very pronounced, with countries in the Global North vaccinated at 50 per cent, while in Africa it is at a mere 1 per cent. The pandemic will only be successfully ended with equal distribution so African countries can undergo maximum vaccination towards effective global immunity. Similar to that gap, global recovery also runs the danger of separating the world into two blocs, with developed countries hoping to return to normal, while others face the real risk of resurgence of infection and death. “This bipolar picture of the world is not what we want to see,” he said.
Given current challenges, multilateralism cannot just be a diplomatic mechanism, but must create a world order of international relations, including cooperation, rule of law, collective action and the principle of global prosperity. Climate change has been the greatest challenge to humanity over past decades, and even more worrying, a report on the gap between needs and prospects in reducing effects of greenhouse gases shows that, even if all unconditional current commitments of the Paris Agreement are implemented, temperatures will still rise by 3.2°C. Collective efforts must be multiplied five-fold, he said, to ensure the goal of reducing emissions by 1.5°C, encouraging Governments, companies and all institutions to aim for carbon neutrality.
Despite challenges and impact on the economic sector, the well-being of the Togo people remains central to his Government. Togo aims to build on economic growth and poverty reduction, for a modern nation of cohesion and peace with inclusive and lasting growth. His Government passed a law for universal health-care coverage with free health care for pregnant women and newborns to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. Significant progress has been made on gender equality, with women represented in decision-making bodies at 35 per cent, up from 23 per cent in 2019. Turning to the economy, he noted that in the 2021 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report Togo ranked as one of the favourite countries for foreign direct investment in 2022. With intolerance and extremism still victimizing Africa, he called for urgent global action to aid countries and regional organizations to combat the scourge of violence. Citing funding difficulties for the Group of Five for the Sahel and United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) which must be overcome, he called it incomprehensible that 50 per cent of pledged contributions to that body have not been disbursed.
LUIS RODOLFO ABINADER CORONA, President of the Dominican Republic, noted that his Government promoted a free vaccination plan during COVID-19, which implemented full vaccination to 57 per cent of the eligible population. Approximately 70 per cent of its population had at least one dose and more than 10 per cent received a third dose. These measures enabled the country to register a lethality rate of 1.14 per cent, one of the lowest in the world. Furthermore, his country made a donation of some 820,000 doses of vaccines to countries in the region.
Turning to the economic and financial crisis caused by the pandemic, he called for a solution to the enormous indebtedness and liquidity crisis. In particular, he urged that a mechanism be developed to remedy the unbalanced special drawing rights funds received by different countries in order to ensure resources reach countries really in need.
Reaffirming his country’s commitment in democracy, human rights and rule of law, he put forward a plan to achieve an economic growth of 10 per cent by the end of 2021 and maintain a growth rate of 5 per cent for the following years. To this end, he proposed a global transformation that balanced the levels of development and the required standards of CO2 emissions. In that manner, countries with the largest emissions would pay for the investments to restore natural resources affected by global warming.
In addition, the current financial crisis and higher indebtedness caused by the pandemic could not only be solved by increasing taxes in respective countries, he continued. Multilateral and bilateral financial institutions should grant credit facilities through transparent, accessible, concerted and non-discriminatory mechanisms to help countries in difficulty quickly regain financial sustainability and access to international financial markets, with preferential rates not affected by the country risk index.
Turning to the crisis in Haiti, he warned that it could be a factor influencing the insecurity in the region. He called on the international community not to abandon the Haitian people at a time of heightened levels of insecurity. With the current political division and the presence of criminal gangs, security was the most important and immediate issue in Haiti, he said, stressing that “there is not, nor will there ever be, a Dominican solution to the crisis in Haiti”.
ÚMARO SISSOCO EMBALÓ, President of Guinea-Bissau, said renewed hope is the only way to build resilience to face the socioeconomic and humanitarian difficulties caused by the current global health crisis and to adequately and sustainably respond to current challenges. In this vein, the United Nations and its agencies have become increasingly important, he said, emphasizing the urgency of revitalizing and improving the Organization’s efficiency and adopting necessary reforms, including in the Security Council. “This is the only way for us to work towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda,” he stressed. “We must support the most vulnerable, promote the creation of adequate health systems and ensure that all countries, without distinction, have quick and easy access to vaccines.”
For its part, Guinea-Bissau has enjoyed the international community’s support across several sectors, he said, outlining such national goals as domestic peacebuilding and better living conditions, with a view to providing new hope in society. Turning to security, he thanked the Secretary-General and partners for their support in taking over responsibilities to ensure political stability following the 2020 drawdown of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).
He also highlighted national efforts to address other challenges. In terms of climate change, the Government has adopted medium- and long-term adaptation plans and extended national land and marine-protected area systems to cover more than 26 per cent of its territory. Reaffirming Guinea-Bissau’s commitment to work with development partners and the international community to find innovative, inclusive and feasible solutions for current pandemic-related challenges, he said “we fully believe that, together, we are able to provide renewed hope to our peoples and to build a more fraternal world.”
ISMAËL OMAR GUELLEH, President of Djibouti, underscored the pandemic’s ongoing impact, particularly on the poor and the vulnerable. It has called into question progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and aggravated extreme poverty. A global plan of action for vaccinations must be put into place before variants of the novel coronavirus undermine the gains made so far in combating COVID-19. He detailed Djibouti’s community-based response to variants, including the deployment of vaccination centres in the capital and interior regions, and thanked international partners for supporting that strategy. The summit hosted today by the President of the United States will help make it possible to identify ways to reverse the pandemic, ensure the worldwide distribution of vaccines and reach a consensus on lifting intellectual property rights to speed up vaccine production.
Solutions mut also be found to stimulate recovery, he continued, pointing to the impact of lockdowns, supply chain disruptions, growing public deficits and devastating economic consequences. In that regard, the support of international financial institutions and friendly countries will be critical. The pandemic is also a unique opportunity to address the link between health, the economy and the environment. The world must choose between continuing to harm the environment and taking collective action, he said, emphasizing that the international community must help developing countries with technology transfers, expertise and appropriate financing.
He hailed the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative, a $5 billion project to plant trees from Senegal to Djibouti via 11 other countries that will restore deteriorating landscapes and improve agricultural production. He expressed regret that efforts to normalize relations with Eritrea have not produced the results that Djibouti was hoping for, including progress on border issues and the fate of 13 Djiboutian prisoners of war. He called on Eritrea to resolve those issues through bilateral dialogue, mediation or binding international arbitration and to dismantle its Anda’ali military camp as a confidence-building measure.
Turning to other regional issues, he reiterated Djibouti’s support for a peaceful settlement of the dispute in Ethiopia. Djibouti is encouraged by progress made in Somalia, but it shares the Security Council’s concern about disagreements within the Government which could impact on planned elections. He called for a fair and lasting solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and urged Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law. Hopefully, the appointment of a new Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen will give new impetus towards ending the conflict in that country. He urged the Houthis to engage constructively in the peace process and condemned attacks on Saudi Arabia. He went on to express deep concern about the Safer oil storage tanker, moored in the Red Sea off Yemen, insisting that the United Nations be given permission to board the vessel, assess its condition and make repairs to avert a catastrophic oil spill.
KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, President of Kazakhstan, expressed gratitude to those who developed COVID-19 vaccines in a remarkably short space of time, adding however that the pandemic’s social and economic repercussions remain very difficult. “We must build back a more equitable, substantiable and humane world,” he said, starting with universal and fair access to vaccines. Kazakhstan has developed its own QazVac vaccine, with two others in development, and it is ready to share them bilaterally or through the COVAX facility. He called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to deliver a meaningful response to the pandemic at its twelfth ministerial conference in November and warned of the potential onset of an “economic iron curtain” that would split the global economy.
As a large landlocked country, Kazakhstan’s climate is warming faster than the global average, with serious droughts striking twice every five years, he said. It aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, including through a low-carbon development strategy to be unveiled in October. Energy transition is a significant challenge, as the country depends on coal to generate 70 per cent of its electricity. He looked forward to clear commitments on green financing and green technologies at COP26 in Glasgow and underscored the importance of the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, in October.
Kazakhstan envisions an Afghanistan that is a truly independent and sovereign nation, at peace with itself and its neighbours, he said. It must adhere to its international obligations and ensure that its territory is free of terrorists, drugs and human traffickers. “Whatever our political affiliations or personal feelings, we must not abandon the people of Afghanistan now,” he said. The acute humanitarian situation should be the first priority, he said, adding that his country is ready to provide a logistical platform for humanitarian aid, including through a United Nations regional hub in Almaty. Afghanistan is not a threat, but an opportunity, and if unified and stable, it can contribute to Central Asia’s development.
Recalling that Kazakhstan relinquished the world’s fourth-largest nuclear arsenal 30 years ago, he urged the nuclear-weapon States to commit to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons by 2045, when the United Nations will mark its centennial. Discussions are meanwhile continuing on the establishment of an international agency focused on biological safety, an idea that is bold, ambitious and timely.
Turning to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the pandemic’s impact on landlocked developing countries, he said its goals will not be attained until all countries have the financial capacity to invest in a sustainable and inclusive future. Development partners must address international liquidity and debt vulnerabilities. He went on to discuss domestic developments, including its shift towards bottom-up governance, the launching of essential democratic reforms and a proposal to set aside 30 per cent of parliamentary seats for women and youth. Kazakhstan’s regional policy aims to replace the Great Game with a “Great Gain” approach based on genuine cooperation, which would give the global community more opportunities to engage with Central Asia. The world is both interconnected and fragile, and it desperately needs meaningful multilateralism that delivers results and expresses global solidarity, he stated.
PEDRO SÁNCHEZ PÉREZ-CASTEJÓN, President of Spain, said a recent volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma illustrated how nature reminds us both of our fragility and our strengths. Over the past year-and-a half, the international community believed the whole world was united on the vulnerability of all and efficacy of science in developing vaccine. However, the pandemic also reinforced intolerable inequalities in vulnerable countries, in both health care and the economy. While Spain is filled with hope after vaccinating 75 per cent of its population, there is a “bitter contrast” with those States still at 1 per cent, including Afghanistan.
In the long run, inequality only creates poverty, while fairness benefits all, as no one is safe unless everyone is safe and no borders can defend some from the suffering of others. He noted Spain has increased its vaccine donation to needy countries by 7.5 million doses. Stressing the severity of the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 9 per cent of the world population and 30 per cent of deaths, he added Spain has donated another 7.5 million doses there and 7.5 million for sub-Saharan Africa. The Government is also contributing €2 million to Unitaid and waiving vaccine patents. In a global paradigm shift compared to previous crises, the world is realizing “there is no such thing as a purely national solution”, he said.
Turning to finance, he cited the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative and IMF special drawing rights as initiatives all should support, as they can benefit middle-income countries with liquidity problems as well as the most vulnerable States. Noting the climate emergency remains “the overarching crisis of our time”, a common problem with common causes calling for multilateral solutions, he called for honouring the commitments of the Paris Agreement. Spain is allocating €30 million to the adaptation fund in 2022, and at home 40 per cent of recovery spending is allocated for ecological transition.
Addressing global security, he noted Spain’s role in Latin America and the Mediterranean, and the Western Sahara, and hailed United Nations efforts including in Libya, whose stability must be forged by Libyans themselves, including through upcoming elections. He cited a new policy for Africa, committed to returning security and peace to the Sahel, which is essential to security of citizens on both sides of Mediterranean. Middle East peace talks must be resumed towards a two-State solution, and the international community must learn to work with Afghanistan. Spain contributes 25 per cent of European Union forces abroad, including in the Sahel. He noted Spain and the United Kingdom have reached a bilateral understanding regarding Gibraltar, expressing hope for an agreement reached with European Union and United Nations doctrine, recognizing his country’s legal position regarding rights and sovereignty there. The enemy of multilateralism is extremism, he said, so the world must not be deceived by those espousing selfishness and individualism.
ERNA SOLBERG, Prime Minister of Norway, pointing to the international community’s collective strengthen, said that the climate, health and economic crises have the potential to increase unity and resolve. “We must harness the momentum created and take action,” she said. The transition to a low-emission society will require profound change, but it will also create opportunities for employment and growth, she said, calling for investment in renewables and new technology as well as putting a price on carbon. More countries, especially large economies, need to raise their ambition level ahead of the upcoming Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow. “We are doing our part. Norway’s new target is to cut emissions by at least 50 per cent — and towards 55 per cent — by 2030,” she stated, and it will continue partnering with developing countries in their efforts to achieve climate-resilient, sustainable development. To tackle climate change, the health of the ocean must urgently be restored. The High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy’s agenda should form the basis for future discussions. “Without healthy oceans, we all face an uncertain future,” she said, calling on ocean and coastal States to sustainably manage all their ocean areas by 2030.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that global problems require global solutions, she continued, calling for reforming and strengthening the global health architecture to prevent, detect, and respond to future threats; building robust national health systems; and ensuring universal health coverage. In Africa, fewer than 1 in 20 people are fully vaccinated, but in Europe, one in two people are. “The pandemic is not over, and it will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere,” she stressed. The vaccination rollout must be accelerated across the world. Her Administration is proud to co-chair the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. Public-private partnerships such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi are also part of the solution. To finance a sustainable recovery, the international community must align its efforts with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said, calling for investment in people, particularly women and girls, to fulfil the promise of leaving no one behind.
Turning to human rights, which is essential to build prosperous and free societies, she said: “The decline in democracy and respect for human rights should be of concern to us all.” She pointed to grave human rights violations in Venezuela, the Tigray region of Ethiopia and Myanmar. Recent developments in Afghanistan are alarming, she said, expressing particular concern about the rights of women and girls, minorities and those at risk because of their work to advance fundamental freedoms. “We will judge the Taliban by their actions, not by their words,” she declared, adding: “The composition of the interim government is discouraging”.
Conflict prevention, peacekeeping and disarmament are vital for sustainable development, and the norms and structures that maintain peace must be safeguarded and strengthened, she said. She welcomed the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction (START) Treaty and said the increased threat from chemical weapons must be countered. The Security Council’s adoption of the resolution extending the mandate for delivering cross-border humanitarian aid into Syria was encouraging and offers hope of finding a political solution to the long-lasting conflict there. Her Administration is a strong supporter of the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative. Turning to maritime security, she said an integrated global response is needed to make the oceans safe. Some 90 per cent of piracy incidents take place in the Gulf of Guinea. Norway is seeking to advance this issue in the Council, in close cooperation with the countries in the region.
BORIS JOHNSON, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, looking ahead to the United Nations Climate Change summit in Glasgow on 1-12 November, said that “it is time for humanity to grow up” and show that it is capable of learning, maturing and taking responsibility for the destruction it is inflicting on the planet and itself. The world is not an indestructible toy or bouncy, plaster romper room in which people can hurl themselves to their heart’s content. If the global average temperature rises by 2.7°C by the end of the century, then the world will see rising sea levels, desertification, drought, crop failures and unprecedented mass migration. “Our grandchildren will know that we are the culprits… and they will ask what kind of people we were to be so selfish and so short-sighted,” he said.
It is not too late to restrain the rise in the global average temperature to 1.5°C if the world achieves carbon neutrality by the middle of the century, he said. But to do so, countries must commit in Glasgow to very substantial reductions in carbon emissions by 2030 and that can be done through commitments in four areas — “coal, cars, cash and trees”. Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that the way to fix the problem is through science, innovation and breakthroughs made possible by capitalism and free markets.
He detailed the United Kingdom’s progress in reducing its carbon emissions, noting that he is thinking of changing his name to “Boreas Johnson”, in honour of the god of the north winds which drive its offshore wind turbines. He thanked the President of China for ending its international financing of coal and hoped that China will also phase out the domestic use of coal. The loss of trees and biodiversity must also be reversed, he said, noting that the United Kingdom — having been the first to send “great puffs of acrid smoke into the heavens” as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution — is currently planting millions of trees to beautify its landscape and stop erosion.
Despite financial pressures caused by the pandemic, the United Kingdom is keeping its promise to provide £11.6 billion to help the rest of the world tackle climate change, he continued. Contributions by other States will bring the $100 billion pledged to developing countries within touching distance. Trillions of dollars in private sector investments will also enable developing nations to undertake change, creating millions of well-paid, skilled jobs and reducing consumer costs, while also helping to save the planet. He concluded by saying that Kermit the Frog was wrong when he sang “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green” (“He was also unnecessarily rude to Miss Piggy.”) and that Sophocles is often quoted as saying that nothing in the world is more terrifying than mankind. What Sophocles actually said is that man is deinos, or awesome, with the power to change things and save humanity. “In the next 40 days, we must choose what kind of awesome we are going to be,” he said.