Governments Also Pressed to Address ‘Tragic Reality’ of Climate Change, Share Emission Reduction Burden Equally, Help Vulnerable States Build Resilience
The issue of vaccine equity animated day three of the General Assembly’s annual general debate today, with leaders from nations large and small hailing the development of COVID-19 vaccines as a testament to human ingenuity, as well as pointing to the vast fissure between the haves and have nots in their availability and rollout.
Namibia’s President, Hage G. Geingob, said the state of affairs is so severe it amounts to “vaccine apartheid”, with many developing countries left out of the equation. “It is a pity that we have a situation where, in some countries, citizens are at a stage of receiving booster shots, while in other countries, many are still waiting to receive their first doses.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said that while it was indeed through solidarity that countries were able to access medical supplies, the global community has not sustained these principles in securing equitable access to vaccines. With more than 82 per cent of doses acquired by wealthy countries, and less than 1 per cent sent to low-income ones, he urgently called for a temporary waiver of some Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights provisions, which would allow low-income nations to produce vaccines.
In her maiden speech to the General Assembly, Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, called the level of vaccine inequity appalling. “It is truly disheartening to see that whilst most of our countries have inoculated less than 2 per cent of our populace and thus seek more vaccines for our people, other countries are about to roll out the third dose,” she said. Countries with surplus doses must share them, with patent rights waived for developing countries so that they can afford to produce their own.
Luis Alberto Arce Catacora, President of Bolivia, condemned that continued inequality in distribution between the main capitalist countries and those on the periphery, noting the World Health Organization (WHO) reported only 30 per cent of the global population has received 1 dose and barely 15.5 per cent is fully vaccinated. “Capitalism has transformed all areas of social life into merchandise, and health has not escaped its tentacles,” he stated. Stressing that no one should seek to profit from health during a pandemic, he called for transnational companies to lift their patents and the United Nations and Governments to work in solidarity to avoid hoarding vaccines.
“What we need,” said Lionel Rouwen Aingimea, President of Nauru, “is access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines”, as well as to prevention, mitigation and treatment interventions. Only then can the small island nation, which is highly dependent on imports, reopen its economy. He called access thus far elusive and uneven and supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for an emergency platform and global vaccination plan. “We have to open our eyes to current failures to act,” he insisted.
Questions of equity, unity and follow-through also played out on the issue of climate change, with President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen of Panama pressing Governments to dispense with disbelief. “What more do global leaders need to understand this very tragic reality?” he asked. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana, similarly deplored that “the promises of COP15 had not been delivered”, referring to the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The burden of emission reduction was not shared equitably. At COP26, he expected binding commitments and contributions to the most vulnerable economies to build up resilience against climate events.
David Panuelo, President and Head of Government of Micronesia, hailed the election of a leader from a small island developing State as President of the Assembly for this session, noting his own country is addressing the crisis by enacting its Blue Prosperity Micronesia and Micronesia Challenge policies. Those initiatives will seek to protect 30 per cent of its ocean territory and 50 per cent of coastal and terrestrial territory. Similarly, Kiribati’s President Taneti Maamau said securing the limits of the country’s maritime boundaries against the threats of sea-level rise and climate change is of vital importance, given those vast ocean resources sustain its economy, culture and people’s livelihoods. While the country will continue to build national resilience and enhance actions aligned with climate-resilient sustainable development, he stressed: “Our resilience as a global community is being tested.”
Iraq’s President Barham Salih said a document has been created to guide his country’s economic transition and promote the concept of a green economy, as it aims to attract new investment and ensure more private sector participation in the fight against climate change. He described Iraq’s diversified landscape of marshes, palm trees and the mountains of Kurdistan as reasons why it could be “an environmental meeting point” for countries in the Middle East. “We may have different political views but we must remain united on climate change,” he said.
Several speakers also turned focus on the crisis in Afghanistan. Tajikistan’s President, Emomali Rahmon, noting his country shares a nearly 1,400-kilometre border with Afghanistan, stressed that recent developments there pose a serious threat to regional security and stability. The Taliban’s rise to power has further complicated the region’s already complex geopolitical process, given its failure to deliver on earlier promises for a comprehensive Government with broad participation of Afghan political and ethnic forces.
Mario Draghi, President of the Council of Ministers of Italy, cited “the risk of a social and civil catastrophe” in the country and region. Noting the presence of groups affiliated with Al-Qaida and Da’esh in Afghan territory, he called on the international community to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a menace to international security.
Also speaking today were the Presidents, Heads of State and ministers of Botswana, Cuba, Angola, Burkina Faso, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Zimbabwe, Chad, Comoros, Gabon, Liberia, Iraq, Burundi, El Salvador, Uganda, Azerbaijan, Libya, Monaco, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Lesotho, Czech Republic, Austria, Mexico and Hungary.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Friday, 24 September, to resume its general debate.
MATAMELA CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, President of South Africa, said COVID-19 has changed forever the nature of multilateral engagement, diplomacy, business and basic human interaction. While it was indeed through solidarity and cooperation that countries were able to access medical equipment and supplies, the global community has not sustained these principles in securing equitable access to vaccines. With more than 82 per cent of doses acquired by wealthy countries, and less than 1 per cent sent to low-income ones, he urgently supported the proposal for a temporary waiver of some provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which would allow low-income nations to produce vaccines.
“We need to prepare now for future pandemics and work with greater determination towards the goal of universal health coverage,” he stressed. In addition, he called for providing them with the means of implementation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, describing the $650 billion allocation of special drawing rights as insufficient and thus calling for 25 per cent of the total allocation — $162 billion — to be made available to Africa. On climate, he said the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) must launch a formal work programme on the implementation of the Global Goal on Adaptation.
He went on to call for an enhanced relationship between the United Nations and the African Union in maintaining peace, financing peacebuilding and advancing post-conflict reconstruction. He drew attention to the right of Palestinians to self-determination, urging all nations to help find a just, lasting and peaceful solution based on internationally agreed parameters enshrined in relevant resolutions. The people of Western Sahara have the same right, in line with relevant African Union decisions, he said, calling also for a lifting of the embargo on Cuba.
Noting that it has been 12 years since the start of intergovernmental negotiations on reform of the Security Council, he said: “We have not honoured this undertaking.” He reiterated the call for urgent reform and a move to text‑based talks. “We must address the underrepresentation of the African continent in the United Nations system,” he insisted. He said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action remain the international blueprint for fighting racism, stressing that “racism, like sexism, xenophobia and homophobia, demeans us all”. Above all, nations must close the wounds of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment that prevent societies from realizing their potential. This can only be done within the framework of a revitalized and reformed multilateral system, with a strong United Nations at its centre.
MOHAMED IRFAAN ALI, President of Guyana, said that the COVID-19 “pandemic had exposed the shortcomings of our international system” and that nationalism still prevailed. The past two years have taught the world that nations are interconnected, and he regretted that the pandemic had “wrecked the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” by reversing developmental gains and expanding poverty.
Underlining that economic recovery is essential to bringing developing countries back on track towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, he requested the international community to allocate more resources to these States through debt rescheduling, debt service moratorium and the provision of soft resources. Failing to do so will not only impact poor and vulnerable nations but also developed ones. The pandemic underscored the need for global collaboration, he said, thanking United States President Joseph R. Biden for hosting a COVID-19 summit which resulted in commitments for joint global action and additional resources. He also welcomed the recent meeting between representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and vaccine manufacturing companies to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries.
On climate change, he deplored that “the promises of COP15 had not been delivered” and that recent studies have drawn a grim picture for the future of humanity. The consequences of climate change will result in political instability and will likely fuel regional and international conflicts. He added that while Guyana was one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, it would be among the first countries to suffer from climate-change-related disasters. The burden of emission reduction was not shared equitably. Innovative ways to collaborate must be found to address the fight against climate change and COP26 in Glasgow would be the right place to do so. Guyana would expect binding commitments and contributions to the most vulnerable economies to build up resilience against climate events.
On Guyana’s territorial integrity, he drew attention to continued threats from Venezuela, which recently issued a statement claiming two thirds of his country’s territory. Guyana “cannot be used as an altar of sacrifice for the settlement of Venezuela’s internal political differences”, he said, noting that the territorial dispute was settled by the International Court of Justice in 1966.
Commenting on other international issues, he expressed his nation’s “solidarity with the Palestinian people and its desire for a dignified existence in their own homeland in accordance with a two-State solution” and called on the international community to support that cause. Turning to Cuba, he invited the United States to normalize relations with the island State for the benefit of the region. Concluding, he said that Guyana’s diverse population is representative of the world, and that the country has been pursuing peace and prosperity by respecting human rights, and upholding democracy and the rule of law. These values are deeply rooted in Guyana, and they will continue to drive its willingness to work together with other nations.
MOKGWEETSI ERIC KEABETSWE MASISI, President of Botswana, called for a more equitable global vaccination roll-out programme, which could help win the race against new variants, and joined the call for “the vaccines to be treated as a global public good”, as they are “key to recovery and rebuilding better”. Detailing his country’s progress in vaccinating the population, he emphasized that the prevailing vaccine inequity is a “reflection of the inherent weakness of our multilateral system” and called for strengthening international cooperation, coordination and solidarity. One way of doing so is through sharing and transfer of knowledge and waivers on intellectual property rights on vaccine production, he said, indicating that the Botswana Vaccine Institute was open for relevant cooperation.
Pointing to the severe economic impact of the pandemic, he noted that his country struggled with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and initiated its Reset Agenda to better recover from the pandemic through vaccination, reforming public services, digitalization and value-chain development, as well as change of mindset.
Recalling the devastating impacts of climate change, he said that as a climate-vulnerable country, Botswana would strengthen its early warning and disaster preparedness system mechanisms through regional collaboration. Against that backdrop, he called for an “aggressive dialogue” on climate change and noted that the global community should utilize the opportunity presented by the forthcoming climate change conference, outlining Botswana’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
On human rights, he said that in the context of the pandemic, the time has come to escalate efforts towards making human rights a reality for all the world’s people. To this end, he stated that his country had deposited an instrument of ratification to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities — “a demonstration of Botswana’s commitment towards the realization of the 2030 Agenda and its principle of leaving no one behind”. As a co-chair of the group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, Botswana will continue to ensure that Member States pay attention to their primary responsibility to protect their own populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Turning to the peace and security agenda, he announced that his Government signed a memorandum of understanding in 2021 with the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism to enhance Botswana’s ability to better detect and deter terrorist activities.
Turning to revitalizing the work of the principal organs of the United Nations, he called for enhancing the role and authority of the General Assembly and for moving forward with “a long‑outstanding reform of the Security Council”. “Let us rise above our differences so that we do not leave this unfinished business as a burden for the future generation,” he concluded.
MIGUEL DÍAZ CANEL BERMÚDEZ, President of Cuba, citing United Nations and International Labour Organization (ILO) forecasts, noted that 205 million people will be unemployed in the world by 2022. Pointing out that around 600 million people are in poverty and 80 per cent of vaccines were distributed to middle- or high-income countries, he said that, in comparison, the world’s military budget in 2020 amounted to almost $2 trillion. “How many lives would have been saved should those resources [have] been invested in health or the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines?”, he questioned, calling for a change in the unequal and antidemocratic international order.
Criticizing the economic coercive measures by the United States, which have been further tightened during the pandemic, he said that Washington, D.C., has been launching an “unconventional war” against his country, aiming to portray an absolutely false image to vindicate its “change of regime” doctrine, and to erase the Cuban Revolution from the political map of the world. In this regard, he reiterated his country’s position by citing Raúl Castro’s words: “Cuba is not afraid of lies, nor does it give in to pressures, conditions or impositions, wherever these may come from.”
He went on to state that Cuba has sent more than 4,900 workers to 40 countries and territories affected by the pandemic, and exhibited solidarity with Haiti following the recent earthquake. Cuba also created three COVID-19 vaccines and two candidate vaccines. During the first 10 days of September, more than 15.8 million doses of the vaccines have been administered and 37.8 per cent of the Cuban population is fully vaccinated, he said, adding that his country expects to achieve full immunization by the end of 2021.
He further expressed his country’s solidarity with Venezuela, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Colombia and Syria, and called for a lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East. Condemning sanctions against Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he reiterated his country’s support for the “One China” principle, and its opposition to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) presence up to the borders of the Russian Federation. Calling for an end to foreign interference in Belarus, he also reminded the United Nations not to ignore the lessons learned in Afghanistan.
JOÃO MANUEL GONÇALVES LOURENÇO, President of Angola, said the only way forward to fight the pandemic was through combined efforts, without distinctions between rich and poor or social categories. “It is shocking to see the disparity between some nations and others with respect to availability of vaccines,” he said, noting that most of the population in Africa had not received the first dose. He went on to call for recognizing the COVID-19 vaccine as “a good for all humanity”, which should be equitably distributed on a global scale.
Noting the negative impact that the pandemic had had on the living conditions of the country’s people, he said that Angola was seeking solutions to help mitigate its impact, including in terms of financial responsibilities towards creditors.
Turning to Angola’s efforts to contribute to peace and stability in Central Africa, in the Great Lakes Region and other parts of the continent, he pointed to his country’s experience in “seeking solutions for disputes through dialogue and understanding between conflicting parties”.
He went on to express concern over the use of military force in some African countries to prompt changes in institutional order, which did not receive “an appropriate and sufficient reaction from the international community”. Citing activities of extremist groups in the African Sahel, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique, he urged the international community to strengthen its capacity to respond to these dangerous acts as well as to condemn the rise in the use of mercenaries. The United Nations, African Union and the international community, must encourage the Ethiopian authorities to find better ways to put an end to the conflict in the Tigray region, and counter the threat of a humanitarian catastrophe before it becomes too late, he said.
On climate change, he pointed to the frequency and ferocity of natural hazards, which required “concerted efforts” to protect planet Earth which has been sending “increasingly clear signals that she is not happy with how we treat her”.
ROCH MARC CHRISTIAN KABORÉ, President of Burkina Faso, noted that many countries are facing scourges beyond COVID-19. If the trend continues, the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be attained. As such, he called for more international solidarity in pandemic response. However, efforts to combat COVID‑19 shouldn’t usurp the fight against AIDS, which continues to plague the African continent.
Terrorist attacks in the Sahel have destroyed development efforts in the region, primaril y in the three-border area, he warned. In response, Burkina Faso is piloting a national security policy, he said, stressing that all military operations will be conducted in compliance with human rights. However, those efforts must be supported by the international community. The situation stems from the collapse of Libya, which caused a skyrocketing of arms in the region. For this reason, the mandate of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) should be placed under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, he stressed.
Burkina Faso is implementing a new development framework, focused on building peace and security, institutional reform, production transformation and human development, he continued. The national development plan will cost $34 billion, 63 per cent of which will be provided by the national budget.
As for climate change, there is an urgent need for robust and unified action, he said. In Burkina Faso, 34 per cent of the land has been degraded because of drought and endemic floods. In that context, he recalled that Burkina Faso had ratified the Paris Agreement and called on all countries to make efforts to save the planet for future generations. COP26 in Glasgow will be crucial to evaluate joint commitment and rethink post-pandemic economic recovery.
Turning to the situation in Libya, he said that it requires international attention so that a solution can be found that will contribute to security throughout the region. In the Western Sahara, he expressed support for the political process under way. Given the progress made during the two round tables in Geneva, he encouraged participants to remain committed to negotiations. Similarly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a political outlook that will allow the parties to resume dialogue. On the blockade on Cuba, he observed that the socioeconomic effects have been exacerbated by the pandemic and called for the embargo to be lifted.
LAURENTINO CORTIZO COHEN, President of Panama, said the pandemic has struck all nations equally, revealing deeply rooted inequalities. The path forward must be guided by solidarity. “Our decisions today matter,” he insisted. For its part, Panama is working to build an inclusive and sustainable future. He drew attention to his call for a national dialogue, with a view to taking wise decisions that would outlast any Government. Titled “The Bicentennial Pact: Closing Gaps”, it acknowledges that all must contribute to creating a country that is more inclusive and united. Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called it “a great opportunity”.
Acting with foresight, Panama procured safe vaccines for the entire population, he continued, and is now only weeks away from achieving collective immunity. However, the goal must be global immunity. The Government has prioritized delivery of food and basic inputs to those who lost their income due to the pandemic, and coordinated a plan which transferred funds to those in need either through digital vouchers or the distribution of food to those in hard‑to‑reach areas. Since March 2020, it has evolved into a social relief plan with shared responsibility, he said, noting that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) cites Panama as one of two countries which reduced extreme poverty indices in 2020.
He pointed to irregular migration as another challenge, stressing that more than 80,000 irregular migrants crossed into his country in 2021. It received 800 migrants in January, a figure that increased to 30,000 in August, with most of them from the Caribbean and Africa. Providing them temporary shelter, medical assistance and food, Panama dedicates a large part of its limited resources to these tasks. He called on the international community to act quickly, in a coordinated manner and with requisite resources to anticipate a humanitarian crisis of grave proportions. “This is the responsibility of all of us,” he emphasized. “And it must happen now.”
On climate change, he said it is time to dispense with disbelief. “What more do global leaders need to understand this very tragic reality?”, he asked. Noting that Panama is one of three countries classified as carbon neutral, he said it also has the best maritime and air connections in Latin America, and understands that “what is good for the planet, is good for the economy”. It is a global blue leader, participating in an effort to protect 30 per cent of the world’s oceans, a goal it achieved nine years before 2030. In closing, he championed a road map marked by solidarity and human rights, and “broad and honest dialogue” in efforts to bring about peace, provide vaccines to all nations and preserve health. “Enough with our promises,” he said. “The time has come for truth, […] action. Panama is doing its part.”
MILO ĐUKANOVIĆ, President of Montenegro, said that global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, reinforced the need for the United Nations to lead global cooperation. In light of recent events, he regretted that nationalism still prevailed, noting that the only path for dealing with global challenges was through multilateralism. Applauding the Secretary-General’s initiative on the COVID-19 response and the United Nations Global Humanitarian Response Plan, he referenced the words of Mr. Guterres, noting that humanity was at a crossroads and would have to choose between isolationism or the “common agenda”. “Post pandemic recovery and revitalized multilateralism must be based on fair globalization, respect for human rights and dignity of all, environment protection and responsible attitude to nature,” he said.
Montenegro will continue supporting a multilateral approach and it invited the world to collaborate on digitization, he continued. He expressed support to the United Nations reform agenda and the “Action for Peacekeeping” initiative. As a member of the United Nations and NATO, his country urges other States to further develop multilateral agreements in the field of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
On human rights, he called for a better alignment between the work of the Human Rights Council and the United Nations. He also requested solidarity to handle the migration crisis and he reminded that Montenegro did its share in the 1990s by accepting over 100,000 refugees. In this regard, the conclusions of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the context of climate change were alarming. Considering the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow, he invited other countries to further their ambition towards reducing global warming. Integrating human rights actions into the future climate framework and the new global biodiversity framework would be critical.
Although 2021 marks the 15-year anniversary of Montenegro’s independence being restored, the geopolitical situation in the Western Balkans remains unstable and has slowed development in the region. Consequently, tensions have been raised and could have a detrimental impact in a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional community. He deplored that Bosnia and Herzegovina had been suffering destabilization attempts. Montenegro wanted to warn the world of the perilous future in the Western Balkans region. Concluding, he said that Montenegro would continue to build a better future for its citizens, as well as maintain its good relations with its neighbours and other strategic partners.
HAGE G. GEINGOB, President of Namibia, observed that the global roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine has not been impervious to the scourge of inequality. Vaccine apartheid has resulted in significant disparities in terms of production and availability, with many people in developing countries excluded. It is a pity that, in some countries, citizens are at the stage of receiving booster shots, while in other countries, many are still waiting to receive their first dose of vaccines. Indeed, COVID-19 has impacted poorer countries more acutely and unevenly, he stressed.
Turning to climate matters, he reported that Namibia has decided to prioritize the development of green and blue economies, harnessing its renewable resources, such as solar, wind and ocean. Additionally, it has made progress in incubating renewable energy assets in the form of green hydrogen and ammonia as part of its energy transition through green industrialization, he said.
Recalling Africa’s tumultuous past, he said there is a new order on the continent. When there have been setbacks, the African Union, supported by respective regional economic communities, has ensured that perpetrators are ostracized. “This is the new Africa, an Africa which belies in constitutional order.”
It has now been nearly 50 years and still the people of Western Sahara are waiting for their right to exercise their inalienable right to freedom and independence, he observed. As such, he welcomed the appointment of the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for the Territory. He went on to call for an end of the economic, commercial and financial embargo by the United States against Cuba and urged President Joseph R. Biden to rekindle the spirit of respect between the Washington, D.C., and Havana.
“Where there is unity, there is hope to overcome COVID-19; where there is unity, people can return to rebuilding sustainably; where there is unity, we can respond to the needs of the planet and respect the rights of all people.” Through unity, the United Nations can be transformed into a bastion of global democracy and reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, he said.
STEVO PENDAROVSKI, President of North Macedonia, reflecting on the lessons learned from the pandemic, stressed that “we can deal with all global challenges — be [they] security, pandemics or climate change — only with more empathy, cooperation and solidarity.”
Turning to Afghanistan, he said that his country has readily hosted a considerable number of Afghan refugees, particularly the vulnerable ones, and called on States to work together to address the root causes of terrorism.
Describing climate change as the “greatest challenge of our time”, he reiterated North Macedonia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and noted that his country looks forward to COP26 in Glasgow.
He went on to point out that the Western Balkans faces serious challenges in light of its European integration aspirations. “The current impasse in that process frustrates citizens and constantly diminishes their enthusiasm for positive change,” he said, stressing the urgent need for a break-through in European integration. Having resolved the “name issue” with Greece, under the auspices of the United Nations, “the effects of the Prespa Agreement being implemented in good faith will benefit both our countries and the region as a whole”. He added that his country is ready to engage in dialogue with Bulgaria, to ensure full implementation of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighbourliness.
LIONEL ROUWEN AINGIMEA, President of Nauru, said that, in a year marred by disasters, conflict and untold human suffering — all amplified by COVID-19 — “we must remain hopeful”. Today’s obstacles in many ways mirror the history of Nauru, which has survived epidemics, recovered from world wars and overcome exploitation, persevering in the knowledge that “an outbreak in one corner of the world can produce a ripple of destruction that touches us all”. As one of the smallest United Nations members, Nauru is committed to multilateralism. He called for “opening our eyes” to current failures to act, and to implement historic agreements, notably on climate change. Policies to avert catastrophes are left to “sit idly on bookshelves and in hard drives” while the world battles new crises.
He therefore welcomed the “Our Common Agenda” report, as COVID-19 has only exacerbated Nauru’s isolation from the global community. Thanks to a whole‑of‑Government approach to fighting the virus, Nauru is one of five countries to remain COVID-19‑free today. However, emergency measures and costs are growing unendingly, and supply accessibility is a stark challenge. Nauru needs access to vaccines, a prerequisite for reopening the economy, as well as to COVID-19 prevention, mitigation and treatment interventions. Thanking Australia, India, Japan and “Taiwan” for their ongoing assistance, he said “Taiwan” aspires to join the World Health Assembly and should have the right to participate as an equal partner in implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. It should also be part of the “Our Common Agenda” vision.
He went on to stress that the United Nations resident coordinator system in the North Pacific should be backed by predictable and adequate funding and noted more broadly that Nauru’s recent reclassification as a high-income country renders it ineligible for concessional financing. If the unique vulnerabilities of small island developing States are not considered, the goals of the Samoa Pathway — and achievement of the 2030 Agenda — will remain compromised. He welcomed work on the multidimensional vulnerability index, so countries like Nauru can access concessional financing.
Turning to climate, he cited “the harsh truth” that funding for the causes of climate change is exponentially greater than that for the global response. Leaders everywhere must act swiftly to close the emissions gap and keep temperature rise below 1.5°C. He advocated for the creation of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Climate and Security, pressing the Group of 20 to phase out all fossil fuel subsidies by 2023, and accelerate the transition to low emissions, climate-resilient economies, in line with article (2)(1)(c) of the Paris Agreement.
As a big ocean State, Nauru has enjoyed the benefits of its large exclusive economic zone and sustainably managed, highly migratory tuna stocks, he said. He drew attention to the Naoero communiqué, adopted at the Micronesian Presidents’ Summit, noting that Nauru also has invoked section 1, paragraph 15 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, initiating the process to complete the Exploitation (Mining) Code within the next two years, allowing it and other developing nations to participate in a new industry and access the polymetallic nodule resources critical to building a clean energy transition.
EMMERSON DAMBUDZO MNANGAGWA, President of Zimbabwe, said that vaccine nationalism was a self-defeating approach that contradicted the mantra “no one is safe until everyone is safe”. He underscored that this year would be crucial for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals with the organization of a biodiversity summit, the second Global Sustainable Transport Conference and the Nutrition for Growth Summit. He also welcomed the upcoming High-Level Dialogue on Energy as an opportunity to explore viable renewable and green energy solutions, adding that Zimbabwe and the Southern African nations continued to suffer from the devastating impact of climate change while being among the least polluting regions. The upcoming COP26 must be an opportunity to take concrete actions and offer additional financial support to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.
Pointing to the initiatives carried by the Government, such as the land redistribution programme and increased support for farmers, he highlighted the positive results which led to more sustainable incomes for farmers in rural areas. In that regard, the United Nations Food Systems Summit was a useful platform for new actions and innovative solutions. In its “Vision 2030”, Zimbabwe aims to improve the lives of its citizens by sustainably managing the environment and creating decent jobs. These initiatives have made his country one of the fastest movers in the World Bank ease of doing business index.
He went on to say that the Government has approved the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur to Zimbabwe in October of this year to investigate the negative impacts of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights. He requested the international community to remove the illegal sanctions, adding that he was grateful to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union and other nations who have continued to support Zimbabwe.
Underlining the constant threat of terrorism, he stressed that peace and stability in the SADC region were endangered. The solution laid in the hands of African nations with initiatives, such as the “Silencing the Guns” programme. Referring to the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons during the high-level week, he invited nations to collaborate to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. As well, he expressed concerns about the rise of racial tensions, violence and hate crimes. The recent adoption of the resolution establishing the Permanent Forum of People of African Decent was commendable, he added.
Given the importance of human rights in the work of the United Nations, he encouraged the full implementation of United Nations resolutions to end all forms of colonialism and occupation. Strengthened multilateralism was needed. To that end, Zimbabwe supported the reform of the Security Council and the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, he said.
MAHAMAT IDRISS DÉBY ITNO, President of Chad, noted that developing countries, especially in Africa, have been deeply impacted by COVID-19 due to their structural vulnerabilities. The persistence of the virus requires mobilization to amplify response efforts. However, inequality in access to vaccines is great, with rich countries having achieved 50 per cent immunization and poor countries only 2 per cent. Indeed, only 2 per cent of vaccine doses have gone to Africa. It is incomprehensible that some countries stockpile vaccines, he said, stressing that nations not immunized will be the source of virus spread and new variants.
Developing countries are already facing recurring obstacles, such as debt burden, a lack of access to resources, unfair trade terms and the collapse of the tourism sector, he continued. African nations are also affected by the non‑fulfilment of commitments under the 2030 Agenda pertaining to assistance, he said, calling upon international partners to honour their commitments to vulnerable countries.
The lack of prospects in the Sahel region prompts young people to pursue extremist ideologies, he cautioned. Recalling the death of Chad’s former President, he reported that his country is undergoing a period of transition. A broad-based Government was put in place and a road map for transition was adopted in July, focusing on strengthened security and defence, inclusive dialogue, good governance and the rule of law. However, the $1.3 billion cost of the transition plan is out of Chad’s reach and will require support from partners. For the sake of unity, a special technical committee was established to facilitate and include military forces in the national dialogue. In that context, he urged Chadians outside the country to return without fear.
Making note of Chad’s border with Libya, he said his country is suffering the full brunt of the crisis there. The Security Council established a direct link between the withdrawal of foreign fighters in Libya and unrest in Chad, he said, urging the international community and the Council to take measures for the establishment of a supervisory mechanism for a planned and coordinated withdrawal of those elements. Chad is counting on the United Nations to lead the process and mobilize resources necessary to finance it, he said. Indeed, the increase of terror attacks on G5 Sahel security forces threaten the very existence of States in the region. For its part, Chad aims to pool efforts to better adapt to the changing situation on the ground and organize its meagre military resources. In that context, there is a need for greater, multifaceted support for the joint forces and their member States, namely granting the G5 Sahel a mandate under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to ensure its sustainable funding.
AZALI ASSOUMANI, President of Comoros, welcomed the waves of solidarity, demonstrated during the pandemic, and praised scholars and researchers for their contribution to the development of the vaccines. Pointing to the severe economic impact of the pandemic, he noted that the health care crisis had further deepened the gap between rich and poor, accelerated inequality and disturbed the equilibrium of national economies, all of which could be tackled with solidarity and multilateralism at heart.
He went on to call for guaranteeing better representation for developing countries in the United Nations and particularly for those of the African continent, which include both areas of dynamic economic growth and conflict. Making note of the territorial dispute between France and the Comoros over the island of Mayotte, he highlighted a “willingness on the part of both parties […] to maintaining a frank and constructive dialogue with the view to arriving peacefully at a lasting and respectful solution […]”. Spotlighting several other disputes to which the international community should pay special attention, he pointed to “the overall necessity of thinking about innovative and lasting solutions, which look beyond short-term geopolitical stakes”, while underscoring the importance of consensus as well as efforts aimed at conflict prevention and resolution.
Natural hazards do not spare any country, however, small islands and developing States are among the most vulnerable and will require the greater attention of world leaders, he said. Indeed, States such as his face many other dangerous phenomena — maritime piracy, human trafficking, illegal fishing and the plundering of the sea’s resources — “barbaric acts”, which are a threat to global security.
Nationally, he said, his Government initiated political dialogue bringing together “the men and women of the Comoros Islands around central goals, namely, peace, security and national unity”, in order to guarantee socioeconomic development of the country. To increase the trust of his country’s population in the justice system, his Government established a superior magistrate council, which has worked towards giving the country an adequate political and legal framework.
On the pandemic, he said that the Comoros has seen two waves of the virus and is in the green category of States. The Government plans to vaccinate 80 per cent of the population by the end of 2022, while continuously sheltering the population from the food crisis caused by COVID-19. For its part, during the presidency in the Indian Ocean Commission, the Comoros helped to successfully manage the pandemic in the member States by establishing a regional plan for a blue economy and a strategy for relaunching regional economies. The pandemic weakened the commitments made by the Comoros in the Paris Agreement, he said, encouraging the international community to “find ways and means to move forward with the Paris commitments and to fund the various projects that we have established for the Emerging Comoros Plan”.
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, President of Gabon, said that efforts to end the pandemic are an opportunity for the world to overcome other major crises and think differently about development models. Indeed, some developed countries intend to relocate their strategic production assistance to reduce external dependency. Africa followed suit, he said. However, that will require African countries to build basic infrastructure, train quality human capital, invest in health infrastructure and break the cycle of dependence on primary raw materials. Economies must industrialize to create more wealth by taking advantage of human and natural resources. Moreover, African countries must accelerate the digital transition and learn lessons from the pandemic to rebuild societies in a more sustainable manner.
Turning to climate security, he observed that the impacts of climate change interplay with the socioeconomic and political issues in countries, highlighting risks like political instability, food insecurity and large-scale migration. States must adapt to face those challenges and the international political agenda will require a significant increase in resources to help States adapt to climate change. International cooperation is essential to support local action. The link between climate change and insecurity is obvious, he said.
He went on to call for a more just international order, marked by the reform of the Security Council so it is more broadly representative. The revitalization of the work of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council must also be carried out, as they have crucial impacts on States’ abilities to achieve the several of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Rebuilding government models requires the international community to meet its commitments, including the transfer of clean technologies so countries can transition to low‑carbon industries. Upholding those commitments is key to support countries like Gabon, which has mobilized resources on projects to promote climate security.
Gabon has been hit hard by the drop in commodity prices which has led to slowed economic activity, he continued. As such, he has instructed his Government to accelerate the transition to a post‑oil paradigm and emphasize new engines of growth, including the mining, forestry and agricultural sectors, as well as new solar and hydroelectric power plants. Beyond infrastructure development, it will ensure fiscal adjustment and promote the private sector, he reported. Inclusion is the thrust of the equal opportunity policy his Government promotes, and Gabon has one of the highest numbers of women working in Government in Africa. Gender parity is a matter of social justice, he stressed, adding that a country must be able to identify the talents and skills of its people without gender distinction.
However, development is not sustainable without peace and stability, he went on, calling for a comprehensive and united approach in fighting instability in several regions in Africa. A threat against one nation is a threat against all, he stressed. Security sector reform in the Central African Republic must be supported with a goal to restore State authority and ensure the security of the people there. The efforts of the Central African authorities to strengthen social cohesion should also be supported, he said, calling on donors to provide financing to ensure stability.
SAMIA SULUHU HASSAN, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, observed that there is less than a decade to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the world is not on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda mainly due to the adverse impact of COVID-19. It is expected that around 71 million people who got out of extreme poverty will be pushed back into it because of the pandemic, she said, stressing that the developing world is most affected.
She said that her country adopted all necessary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, including joining the COVAX Facility. However, the virus is moving faster than the global production and distribution of vaccines, as most vaccines have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries. The level of vaccine inequity is appalling, she said. “It is truly disheartening to see that, whilst most of our countries have inoculated less than 2 per cent of our populace and thus, seek for more vaccines for our people, other countries are about to roll out the third dose, calling it booster vaccine.” Countries with surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses must share them with other countries and patent rights should be waived for developing countries so that they can afford to produce their own.
On gender equality, the pandemic is threatening to roll back gains, she cautioned. As such, her Government is reviewing policy and legal frameworks to come up with actionable, measurable plans to ensure the economic empowerment of women and other aspects pertaining to gender equality and gender parity. It is also working on designing an implementation of gender-responsive macroeconomic plans, budget reforms and stimulus packages with the objective of reducing the number of women and girls living in poverty.
Turning to climate change, her country spends 2 to 3 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to mitigate effects and build the resilience of communities, she said. That is a lot in a country which is still grappling with poverty and the emergency of COVID-19. The pandemic has compromised its capacity to respond to the harmful impact of climate change, she emphasized, calling for a transparent modality for financial disbursement and stressing that developed countries should fulfil their commitment to contribute $100 billion annually.
GEORGE MANNEH WEAH, President of Liberia, emphasized that the international community must continue to emphasize the need for support to vulnerable societies and developing countries. Sustainable recovery from the pandemic must be based on the principle of inclusiveness and solidarity and within the context of leaving no one behind. He also voiced his support for the upcoming fifth Conference on Least Developed Countries, to be held in Doha, Qatar in January 2022.
In response to the pandemic, his Government developed a post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan, he continued. The initiative aimed at providing the basis for economic recovery through short-term actions and investments in key sectors, including agriculture and tourism. With these measures, Liberia is expected to reach a 4 per cent gross domestic product growth in the coming year and be able to obtain a substantial increase in domestic revenue generation for the first time in more than a decade. He also underscored his country’s commitment in climate reform, initiatives in agricultural promotion projects and efforts to prioritize investment in roads, energy and ports.
Reaffirming his country’s commitment in the ecosystem of tropical rainforest, coastal mangroves and interior peatlands, he further pointed out that Liberia has nearly seven million hectares of forest ‑ the last reserves in the region with some of the highest carbon stocks in the world. It was imperative that Liberia’s forests be maintained in the future, he said, calling for meaningful partnerships with the developed world and the private sector.
Liberia’s 15-year civil war ended over two decades ago, he noted, adding that it was a national priority to agree on a process that would bring closure to the wounds of the victims. This, in turn, would guarantee the sustenance of peace, stability, justice and national reconciliation. To that end, the Government began consultations with its National Legislature after which there would be a wider engagement with the Liberian Judicial System and its strategic international partners and organizations. “It is my hope that at the end of this consultative process, a national consensus will evolve that will determine the pathway to resolving this issue,” he said.
BARHAM SALIH, President of Iraq, said his country has worked to strengthen State capacity in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19, noting that it was among the first to join the COVAX Facility. Recalling that Iraq has suffered from war, embargoes, tyranny and genocidal campaigns, that it has known mass graves and experienced chemical weapons use, the draining of marshes and the grip of terrorism over 40 years, he said “we have liberated cities from the evil forces of ISIL/Da’esh [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh],” thanks to Iraq’s army and police, the Peshmerga, the international alliance, its neighbours and the role played by the religious authority Najaf al Ashraf in mobilizing people to face this existential threat.
“We cannot understate the danger posed by terrorism,” he stressed. If distracted by regional conflict, Iraq will see the return of these forces. “Cooperation and solidarity are our only choice in the fight against international terrorism,” he said, noting that the objective now is to rebuild liberated cities and ensure that those displaced can return home. He expressed hope for international support in this regard and underscored the importance of Iraq’s law on Yazidi survivors, who have suffered worst suppression at the hands of ISIL/Da’esh, explaining that it also covers women from other groups. He described the fight against corruption as “a genuine national battle”, advocating for limiting the sources of such behaviour and ensuring the restoration of funds that have been plundered or trafficked, a great portion of which are being used to perpetuate chaos in Iraq. The Government is drafting a law for the recovery of plundered assets, and he called for the formation of an international alliance to similarly meet that goal.
He went on to stress that the planet is facing an existential danger. “We may have different political views, but we must remain united on climate change,” he said, noting that Iraq is experiencing desertification and scarcity of water resources. A document of national contributions has been created to guide Iraq’s economic transformation and to promote the concept of a green economy, to attract new investment and ensure more participation of the private sector in addressing climate change. He called for resuscitating the valley between two rivers, previously known as the “black land” because of its dense vegetation, describing Iraq’s diversified marshes, palm trees and mountains of Kurdistan as reasons why Iraq could be “an environmental meeting point” for countries in the Middle East. This requires international support.
He said the absence of Iraq on the regional scene was among the reasons for the area’s destabilization, noting that the Government has adopted a balanced policy based on dialogue and underscoring the need for a regional organization based on cooperation and economic links that can respond to a variety of issues, from terrorism and extremism, to job creation for young people and climate change. Iraq organized the Bagdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership to underscore that his country, once a conflict area, is now a meeting point. Its crucial role will be re-established within the region, which will require regional and international support. He closed by calling the crisis in Syria unacceptable, with terrorist pockets that threaten Iraq and the region, as well as urging that a global and fair solution be found to the Palestinian question. In October, Iraq will hold early elections in response to national consensus on the need to bring about reforms and establish a new social and political pact that will ensure good governance. “Iraqis have an iron will to preserve the nation,” he insisted, adding that a new electoral law was adopted, a new electoral commission formed and a new electoral code of conduct issued.
DAVID PANUELO, President and Head of Government of Micronesia, said he was pleased to see an esteemed leader from a small island developing State elected as President of the Assembly for this session. He said that his country remains free of COVID-19, having kept the virus at bay by closing its borders and, through the United States, receiving enough vaccines for its entire population. With China’s support, it also set up quarantine sites nationwide. Keeping the country protected, however, meant leaving many of its citizens stranded abroad. Repatriation efforts are continuing, but hundreds of families are still missing their loved one. “To all the Micronesian men and women still stranded abroad, I will give you all my word that we will get you home,” he assured.
On climate change, he said that the science is clear that it affects both developing and developed countries, stressing: “We are all in this together and we must all do our part.” Through its Blue Prosperity Micronesia and Micronesia Challenge policies, Micronesia is seeking to protect 30 per cent of its ocean territory and 50 per cent of its coastal and terrestrial territory. It has banned the import of most plastics and it is shifting towards renewable energy. What it needs from its friends, allies and development partners — “because Micronesia is family to the United States and a friend to the People’s Republic of China” — is global action. Everyone loses if the threat is attributed to a specific country or individual. He urged major carbon emitters to ratify the Kigali Agreement to the Montreal Protocol and phase down the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons.
He outlined steps his country is taking to strengthen the rule of law, including the adoption of legislation on cybercrimes; tackling illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in its waters; and strengthening its maritime surveillance with Australia and Japan. Most important is Micronesia’s enduring friendship with the United States through the Compact of Free Association. He called on the United States to help wrap up talks on provisions of that agreement that are due to expire in 2023.
It would be deeply unjust and inequitable if a small island developing State like Micronesia had to give up any of its maritime rights and entitlements — including its rich fishery resources — due to rising sea levels caused by climate change, he said. He reiterated his country’s endorsement of the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change-related Sea-Level Rise, agreed by Pacific island States in August, and encouraged the international community to favourably consider that instrument and its overarching objectives. Going forward, Micronesia will keep advocating for more effective conservation of marine and forest resources. “Our traditions dictate it and our survival requires it,” he said. The international community must also do more to protect biodiversity.
He welcomed the United Nations Food Systems Summit under way in Barcelona, Spain, this week, noting that about one third of Micronesia’s population suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, largely as a result of a social preference for highly processed and salty food imported from abroad. Efforts are under way to “re-indigenize” the country’s food system as part of its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He welcomed the imminent opening of a United Nations Multi-Country Office for the North Pacific, hosted by Micronesia, adding that it is time for Member States to rethink how best to financially support the Organization’s development system. He went on to discuss Security Council reform, saying that it is appropriate that a Member State which has contributed so much to the United Nations, “such as Japan”, should become a permanent Council member.
EVARISTE NDAYISHIMIYE, President of Burundi, recalling that his country has been a United Nations Member State for 60 years, highlighted significant progress. Indeed, the only threat Burundi faces aside from COVID-19 is poverty. As such, the Government has adopted a transformative road map to expedite the socioeconomic gains that have been advancing since 2018. Fighting impunity and preventing social conflicts are priorities in its transitional justice programme. While gains have been made in fighting terrorism, he said, a common, effective strategy has yet to eradicate this scourge. Beyond military action, efforts must fight against radicalization, which preys on youth. In this vein, the United Nations must undertake a strategy to eradicate poverty, he said, expressing grave concern about terrorist activities that threaten the region and humankind as a whole. All States must pool their strengths to fight against it with greater solidarity. For its part, Burundi has made available since 2007 troops and police to United Nations and African Union operations to help countries like Somalia achieve peace.
Raising several other development issues, he said human rights must be protected through effective justice and security mechanisms. With this in mind, the international community must stand united and reject double standards. The best protection measures include strengthening national mechanisms, he said, calling on partners, including the Human Rights Council, to fairly recognize Burundi’s related efforts. In this regard, it would be counter-productive to single out Burundi, which has adopted such national measures as the independent human rights mechanism and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, Burundi can only achieve development goals by improving such sectors as education and health care.
In terms of COVID-19, Burundi adopted a strategy that has kept positive test rates under 3 per cent. However, there must be a solidarity-based lasting solution for tackling the pandemic and other diseases for all nations. Burundi offers health-care services and poverty-eradication initiatives, provides free schools to all children and operates economic empowerment programmes for women and youth. Other national efforts are focusing on the return of refugees, with more than 75,000 having voluntarily returned to Burundi since July 2020.
Citing other achievements, he said the Government has adopted a plan on peace enhancement, social security and the promotion of economic growth to boost development and foster hope after Burundi’s protracted periods of conflict. Environmental protection is another action area, including financing targeted projects. Burundi’s diplomacy and cooperation plan centres on constructive engagement with other regions and countries. Appreciative that the Security Council has removed Burundi from its agenda, he said the country has returned to peace, security and stability. Highlighting regional developments, he said Burundi has joined a continent-wide free-trade agreement and, in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063, is working on a railway project, partnering with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Republic of Tanzania. Turning to United Nations reform, he commended “Our Common Agenda” as a guide forward. As Africa is the only continent without permanent Security Council seats, this historic injustice must be addressed, he said, pledging full support for the principles of the United Nations Charter.
LUIS ALBERTO ARCE CATACORA, President of Bolivia, said the pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of people and States, risking timely achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Condemning the “multidimensional crisis of capitalism”, he noted inequality between the main capitalist countries and those on the periphery has continued. The growth in extreme poverty and inequitable distribution of vaccines has been condemned by the WHO, he said, with only 30 per cent of the global population having received one dose of vaccine and barely 15.5 per cent fully vaccinated. “Capitalism has transformed all areas of social life into merchandise, and health has not escaped its tentacles,” he stated. No one should seek to profit from health during a pandemic, with transnational companies called to lift their patents and supernational organizations like the United Nations and Governments working in solidarity to avoid hoarding vaccines.
While the United States and European countries reactivate their economies with billions of dollars, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa lack organizations fighting for recovery, he said. Instead, bodies like the Organization of American States “divide us, promoting coups d’etat”. The international community must confront multidimensional threats to economies, industries and food security, while safeguarding workers, farmers, indigenous peoples and small business, just as it protects banks and transnational corporations. However, there will be no progress if the world continues the unjust economic global order, imposing inequalities in trade. He noted e-trade could assist recovery, but the digital divide prevents many from sharing in its benefits, instead turning it into an instrument consolidating injustice. He called for international financial mechanisms to help reduce debt through concessional long-term lending.
“Our common home, Mother Earth” is suffering from consumerism and depredation of resources, he said, with capitalism a main cause of the climate crisis. He promoted Bolivia’s new “living well” model, leaving behind predation, irrational competition and the drive for profit. Looking towards COP26 in Glasgow, he called for solutions to reduce temperatures by means of distributing the carbon budget, based on common but differentiated responsibilities, and for main capitalist countries to assume their responsibilities in transfer of technology.
Unilateral coercive measures by powerful nations contravene the Charter of the United Nations and are unacceptable, he said, calling the blockade and embargo of Cuba a crime against humanity. In Bolivia, the November 2019 coup d’état was driven by many internal actors but also by the Organization of American States and former Government of Argentina. Citing massacres and summary executions, he committed his Government to restoring justice for lives lost and those exiled. He noted his Government was elected by 55 per cent of voters and has the right to free and sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean through open dialogue with the Government of Chile.
NAYIB ARMANDO BUKELE, President of El Salvador, said crises are often warnings for the world to reflect on and think about the future it wants to create. Recalling a number of such moments throughout the twentieth century — from the First and Second World Wars to the Great Depression — he said the United Nations was founded with an optimistic view of the future. He said he had taken a “selfie” to demonstrate that the world had indeed changed and to show how El Salvador had changed. The recent global crisis is a new warning, he said, adding that El Salvador is thinking about the future it wants. However, the world will forge ahead into a greater crisis, as current solutions are primarily short-term and not sustainable.
The world, he continued, is increasingly accelerated, more disunited, more anxious, more pessimistic and more individualistic, and where almost no one knows where the international community is going, or at least where it wants to go, solving problems momentarily, jumping from crisis to crisis. “Society and the world are suffering, and it seems that each time we are further from solving the causes of this suffering,” he said. As an example, he said that today, the world is producing more than it needs and yet people still die of hunger. The ongoing global pandemic has deepened the situation and put civilization on the verge of collapse.
Civilization is fragile, and the world is currently failing to make progress, he continued. At this point in time, let the world learn from history and continue with progress, building on the shoulders of the past. The path towards the future must respect the past and forge ahead on previous achievements. This hinges on a world that must continue to make progress. “We still have time to learn from this crisis,” he said. All the tools are available, from having an interconnected planet to being able to use a broad variety of technological innovations. Right now, the world must decide on its future. Instead of asking for multilateralism to be remodelled, he said, El Salvador is already going down this path. His country is designing the future it wishes to see, where people pursue their interests and the economic benefits follow. Using existing tools, El Salvador has adopted a range of efforts aimed at reaching those in need, with a view to building the future it wants.
EMOMALI RAHMON, President of Tajikistan, noting that his country celebrated thirty years of independence on 9 September, recalled that in its early days the country was plunged into a civil war. However, it now has peace and stability, maintaining an “open doors” policy on the world stage. Noting that the already unstable global situation has been further complicated by geopolitical and geo-economic competition, as well as the unprecedented spread of infectious diseases, he said States must pursue far-sighted and coordinated policies to address such challenges. The role of international and regional organizations, especially the United Nations, is key to finding effective solutions.
He stressed that recent developments in Afghanistan pose a serious threat to regional security and stability. Afghanistan shares nearly 1,400 kilometres of border with Tajikistan. The Taliban’s rise to power has further complicated the region’s already complex geopolitical process. The Taliban’s failure to deliver on earlier promises to form a comprehensive Government, with the broad participation of Afghan political and ethnic forces, was a matter of serious concern. “Unfortunately, human rights organizations have remained silent upon the violation of the rights of other ethnic groups residing in Afghanistan and the freedoms of its citizens, especially women and children, and have not commented on the matter,” he said, citing several examples.
Describing the current situation in Afghanistan as a humanitarian catastrophe, he affirmed that his country would not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. However, properly addressing the political and security problems of that neighbouring country meant forming a comprehensive Government through elections, with the engagement of all political groups and national and ethnic minorities. The formation of any Government, without accounting for the interests of all the Afghan people, could lead to catastrophic consequences. The international community should take immediate and effective measures to stabilize the difficult political and security situation and ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan through peaceful means.
Voicing concern that Afghanistan was once again at risk of becoming a breeding ground for international terrorism, he said Tajikistan’s location puts it at the forefront of countering emerging threats and challenges — including terrorism, extremism, radicalization, drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime. He highlighted the successful implementation of the National Strategy on Combating Terrorism and Extremism (2016-2020), as well as the development and adoption of a subsequent strategy for the next five years. Tajikistan also supported United Nations peacekeeping activities and planned to seek a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for a 2028-2029 term, he noted.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as crucial climate targets, was more important than ever, he stressed. Tajikistan — a highly mountainous country — faced losses of hundreds of millions of dollars annually as a result of water-borne disasters. The Climate Change Conference in Glasgow was going to significantly contribute to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and accelerating the efforts of the international community in the fight against climate change. Because Tajikistan is recognized as a leader in issues related to water and climate, it has submitted numerous United Nations resolutions in those areas. He added that, in 2022, it will host the International High-Level Conference on the Review of the International Decade for Action "Water for Sustainable Development", leading up to the 2023 Water Conference.
YOWERI KAGUTA MUSEVENI, President of Uganda, said the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences can only be addressed through collective action. Vaccinating everybody is the best way forward. More action must be taken to ensure that equitable and affordable access to quality vaccines is at the heart of the global recovery. Withholding vaccines at the expense of developing countries, also known as vaccine nationalism, is wrong, but it is also a lesson for those developing countries which do not want to innovate. “It is good because it wakes up those who are asleep, waiting to be saved by others.” Uganda is developing its own vaccine and it invites interested partners to support that initiative by providing the required raw materials, he said.
The pandemic has disrupted Uganda’s progress towards achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals, but it has given impetus to its industrialization drive and prompted a debate about ways to build resilience to withstand such shocks, he said. The Government has also embraced digital transformation, which presents Uganda with significant opportunities.
The global response to climate change must be strengthened in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication through multilateral action, he said. For Uganda, climate change has led to prolonged droughts, floods, landslides, erratic rainfalls and the melting of the ice cap atop Mount Ruwenzori. The water level of Lake Victoria has risen to the point where communities must relocate further away from its shore. Uganda is not a significant contributor to climate change, but it is taking action by investing in climate adaptation and mitigation measures, including the production of more clean energy and expanding its forests and wetlands.
Looking ahead to the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow, he called on developed countries to make good on their pledge under the Paris Agreement to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. Like most countries, Uganda continues to experience biodiversity loss, with some species now in danger of extinction. With international support, it is mainstreaming biodiversity conservation into its national development plan. It is restoring 64,000 hectares of degraded wetlands, which will benefit 4 million farmers; planting trees to grow its forest cover to 24 per cent by 2030; and addressing the poaching and illegal trade in wildlife. The fifth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in Doha, on 23-27 January 2022, should agree on a programme of action that calls for a strong global partnership that helps those States address existing structural constraints.
Spotlighting the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh, Al-Qaida, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and the Allied Democratic Forces, he said the international community’s resolve to fight terrorism must never waver. Uganda will continue to support global and regional counter-terrorism efforts. The United Nations should continue to support conflict prevention and resolution initiatives by the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). He added that Uganda is committed to supporting counter-terrorism and stabilization efforts in Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
ILHAM HEYDAR OGLU ALIYEV, President of Azerbaijan, said that through its own resources, his country has vaccinated more than 80 per cent of its population against COVID-19 and released a $2.7 billion socioeconomic stimulus package. The pandemic has been kept under control and the quarantine regime gradually eased. As Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, Azerbaijan put forward several global initiatives in response to COVID-19 and it plans to present a resolution in the Assembly on universal vaccine access during this session. He reiterated his country’s dismay with “vaccine nationalism” and the stockpiling of vaccines by some rich countries, which is preventing developing countries from protecting their people.
Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals is important for Azerbaijan, he said, highlighting the progress it is making in poverty reduction, health care, nutrition, Internet usage and women’s participation in the work force, among other things. Having ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change, it is considering additional targets for 2050. Renewable energy accounts for 17 per cent of Azerbaijan’s total energy capacity and it hopes to raise that to 30 per cent by 2030, including through wind and solar power plants. Recently liberated Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur economic zones have been declared a green energy zone with a proven potential of generating a total of 9,200 megawatts of solar and wind energy.
He said that one year after drawing the Assembly’s attention to Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijani territory and the aggressive statements and actions of the Government of Armenia, “I proudly say that Armenia was defeated on the battlefield and Azerbaijan has put an end to the occupation.” The fact that some Security Council resolutions are implemented within days while others go unfulfilled for 27 years is a clear manifestation of double standards. Joint efforts must be made to establish a mechanism to implement Council decisions and thus avoid a selective approach, he said.
The overthrow of the Kocharyan-Sarkisyan regime in Armenia in 2018 raised hopes that the new Government would engage seriously in negotiations, but it opted to continue the policy of occupation, he said. When Armenia attacked Azerbaijani military positions and civilians on 27 September 2020, Azerbaijan exercised its right of self-defence under the United Nations Charter with a counter-attack. During the 44-day war, Azerbaijan restored its territorial integrity and left the 30-year Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the past. There is no administrative territorial unit called Nagorno-Karabakh, as the area has been designated Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur, he said, calling upon Member States and the Secretariat not to use legally non-existent, politically biased and manipulative terminology going forward.
In the aftermath of the war, Azerbaijan is taking legal action against companies which illegally exploited its natural resources in the formerly occupied lands, he said. Armenia must bear responsibility for military aggression and other grave crimes committed against Azerbaijan under international law and the United Nations Charter. Fascist ideology still dominates in Armenia, he said, citing a rise in “Azerbaijaniphobia” and the glorification of Nazism in the person of General Garegin Nzhdeh, who has been made a national hero. Azerbaijan has allocated $1.3 billion this year for reconstruction in Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur, but the vast presence of landmines is the main challenge. Azerbaijan is ready to start peace talks with Armenia to create a region of peace and cooperation, but Armenia has yet to respond positively to this proposal, he said.
MOHAMED YOUNIS MENFI, President of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Unity of Libya, noted the country is at a critical juncture and will either succeed in its democratic transition, through free, fair and transparent elections acceptable to all, or fail and relapse into armed conflict. The need for meaningful guarantees to establish a civil, democratic State has never been more evident. Despite a ceasefire holding, and his Council’s efforts with the Joint Military Commission to reopen the road linking east and west, removing foreign forces remains a challenge. He therefore called on the international community to help secure a conducive environment for elections.
Since taking office, his Government is making strides on the electoral road map and Security Council resolutions but must take practical options to avoid returning to square one. He called for a meeting of all stakeholders to reach agreement on guarantees to maintain the political process, requiring compromise in the interest of placing the State and its people above all. Aiming to restore a sense of a Libyan-led process, the Government will host the Libya Stability Initiative conference in October to ensure international support manifests in a coherent manner. The Council has made national reconciliation the utmost priority, forming a national reconciliation commission to restore the people’s trust. Measures include the exchange of detainees and release of prisoners who’ve either served their time or been found innocent, and will require reparations, the return of displaced people and identifying the fate of the missing.
On the economic front, the Libyan Presidential Council is following the recommendations of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), including addressing economic bottlenecks and working on wealth-sharing, restructuring and recovery. Noting that Libya has always condemned terrorism in all its manifestations, he stressed it is an international phenomenon, not linked to any religion or belief. Libya has suffered one of most barbarous forms of terrorism all over the country, sacrificing its youth to overcome the scourge, as the entire world witnessed its epic efforts to uproot ISIL/Da’esh. Despite security and economic challenges, he noted the country has not forgotten human rights and will increase its cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Turning to migration, he cited the security problems Libya continues to face, requiring the support of the international community, as countries of transit should not have to bear that burden alone. Peace in the Middle East requires that the Palestinian people enjoy their right to an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. He noted Libya has a 10,000-year history as the home to many civilizations, making contributions to human thought and culture, thanks to a marvellous mosaic of peoples. The Libyan people will go down in history for their ability to surmount challenges and crises through determination, emerging from their current plight stronger and more resilient than ever.
PRINCE ALBERT II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, said the world is now at a pivotal point, amid geopolitical tensions, people defying their Governments and the continuing pandemic, which is having a deep impact on the Sustainable Development Goals. The post-pandemic world must be more resilient and sustainable. While Monaco has rigorously managed a pandemic response to protect its people, its plan was fragmented and must improve going forward. The solution to the global crisis requires collective determination, with multilateralism being the key. The world must now choose cooperation to find common solutions guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter.
The pandemic has demonstrated how essential technology can be, changing business strategies, consumer habits and access to such public services as health and education, he said. Thus, reducing the digital divide is clearly a priority, given that 3 billion people do not have Internet access, with the Secretary-General’s road map for digital cooperation highlighting the essential challenges in this area. For its part, Monaco implements a programme to make the country greener and better connected. However, cyberspace requires vigilance by all, especially as online attacks against infrastructure have increased during the pandemic and social platforms have become an arena of disinformation campaigns, he said, recognizing the subtle balance between respect for fundamental freedoms and the dissemination of conspiracy theories and lies.
Drawing attention to other concerns, he said new energy-intensive technologies are affecting the environment. Measures taken to stem the spread of COVID-19 are heavily impacting the mental health and well-being of people, effects that are likely being underestimated. The pandemic must not be allowed to delay the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. The outbreak of COVID-19 has laid bare inherent inequalities, including in the agriculture sector, he said, highlighting the recent food summit and high-level dialogue on energy. Monaco is implementing an energy transition plan to reach the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. But these efforts must be matched by the world in order to make meaningful gains to halt global warming, he said, calling on States to honour their pledges for contributions to climate action.
Post-pandemic recovery must be green and sustainable, he said. COVID-19 reminded the world that it can save ecosystems that are at the point of destruction. Calling for concrete measures to protect the environment, he recalled that the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change offered a unique opportunity to adopt an ambitious global framework for the preservation of biodiversity. Monaco also strongly supports efforts to protect the world’s oceans. Highlighting other sustainable development issues, he said fundamental rights must be enjoyed equally by all, including women and girls. As COVID-19 made clear, he underlined the importance of science, technology and innovation, which represents the path out of the pandemic. Every effort must be made to leave no one behind. States have the responsibility to collectively create a better, sustainable world for all, he said, stressing: “Our failure would be a common bankruptcy, with dramatic consequences.”
While the Earth will no doubt survive the climate crisis, as it has so many times in the past, he wondered whether mankind will. The point of no return is extremely near and, for too long, the world has favoured material and political paths. Faced with an existential risk, it is no longer possible to procrastinate. “We need to put multilateralism back at the heart of our action, to use all the tools at our disposal to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and to meet the needs of our peoples and the planet before our excesses become irreversible,” he said.
TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO, President of Equatorial Guinea, pointing out that the pandemic affected 200 million people and led to the death of almost 5 million, said that lasting solutions must be found and useful conclusions must be drawn. “Common problems are better tackled together,” he said. The international community needs to focus on a post COVID-19 era or on how to live with the pandemic, as the resultant health and humanitarian crisis has taken a toll on economic and social structures. The causes of the pandemic must be examined and economic and social recovery programmes designed to ensure that no countries are left behind. In that regard, the United Nations must play a leading role. He proposed holding an international conference on the pandemic that addresses its causes, consequences and how to assist the weakest nations, especially as the pandemic has exacerbated other ills such as extreme poverty, conflict and migration.
The pandemic has exacerbated the economic crisis caused by the drop in hydrocarbon prices on international markets, he said, adding that Equatorial Guinea had enacted economic diversification policies to revitalize other sectors that are not as vulnerable. Such efforts suffered a significant setback with the accidental explosions in Bata in March that caused over 100 deaths and injured hundreds of people. The substantial material damage forced his Government to review economic priorities and prospects. He thanked countries and international organizations, such as the IMF, for providing emergency assistance.
Underscoring that international security and stability are essential to make the world more just and prosperous, he said the international community must join forces to rid the world of conflicts and their root causes. He congratulated the Governments of Libya, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic for their efforts to restore peace and stability. Equatorial Guinea is a sovereign State that does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and expects its national sovereignty to be respected. “We believe in the centrality of the United Nations, in the architecture of seeking solutions to the problems that affect us collectively,” he said, calling for reforms to demonstrate the Organization’s usefulness and legitimacy, as well as to make it a more effective instrument for collaboration and to strengthen cooperation with regional organizations, such as the African Union.
The Security Council needs to be reformed despite the strong opposition of some countries that benefit from the status quo, he said. Under these conditions, Africa cannot renounce the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration, which reflect the African Common Position of Africa. “Equatorial Guinea, a member of the Committee of 10 of the African Union, will continue to defend what it believes to be fair,” he declared. He observed with great concern the dangerous tendency of some countries to impose foreign values on other nations. Democracy is a good form of Government, but it should not be imposed without considering the history and traditions of people, he said, adding: “Mutual respect for diversity is the cornerstone for the peaceful coexistence of peoples”.
He turned to the Central African subregion, especially the Gulf of Guinea, which is facing growing insecurity and instability due to piracy and terrorist activities. This situation deserves global attention, as coastal countries and international maritime safety are under threat and economic interests are at stake. “Terrorist and mercenary activity continues to be a serious challenge to our countries,” he stated, calling for an international event to address the situation in depth. Stressing that the commercial and economic blockade on Cuba has brought enormous damage to the Cuban people, he concluded by calling it to be lifted.
TANETI MAAMAU, President of Kiribati, described the theme of the Assembly’s session as a powerful wakeup call, with the focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals renewed and centred around recovery and building resilience. “We must nurture our people, to create healthier and more peaceful communities and societies,” he said. Accordingly, his Government aligned the Kiribati 20-year Vision with the development frameworks guiding the United Nations, including the 2030 Agenda and the SAMOA Pathway, in a manner that prioritizes its people. To ensure inclusive, transformative sustainable development that “leaves no one behind”, his Government is working to mobilize support to marginalized communities. He expressed his commitment to the Human Rights Council, noting that the body adopted Kiribati’s universal periodic review report in 2020. Against that backdrop, he welcomed the adoption of the mutually enforcing approach that respects the sovereignty of a member State under review and encourages it to progress its human rights obligations in harmony with its traditional values.
Mitigating the impacts of the pandemic continues to be a challenge for Kiribati due to the reliance on imported goods, he said. Trade policy must be holistic and synergized with broader development priorities. His Government prioritizes the improvement of digital connectivity, as digital trade holds great potential for inclusive growth and socio-economic development. Turning to the COVID-19 response, he acknowledged the support received from the United Nations and from development partners, including such essentials as medication, food and health equipment. Kiribati is on track to have more than 50 per cent of its population vaccinated. More than 70 per cent of the population abroad have been safely reunited with their families. But since the discovery and outbreak of the Delta variant, the remaining nationals, especially the seafarers, have again been left stranded. His Administration will continue to work tirelessly to repatriate them.
Noting that Kiribati’s vast ocean resources sustain its economy, culture and people’s livelihoods, he said securing the limits of the country’s maritime boundaries against the threats of sea-level rise and climate change is of vital importance. Once delimitation of the maritime boundary is submitted to the Secretary-General in accordance with United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, maritime boundaries would remain permanent and shall not be affected by climate change and sea level rise. As the 2019 Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion for sustainable coastal fisheries, Kiribati will lead efforts promoting collaborate research, workshops and seminars, exchange best practices and showcase success cases among Commonwealth countries.
Recognizing that Kiribati remains vulnerable to climate change, the country will continue to build national resilience and enhance actions aligned with climate-resilient sustainable development, he said. “Our resilience as a global community is being tested,” he said, stressing: “We need to recommit ourselves to our obligations under the Paris Agreement, by putting the needs of our peoples first, and remain guided by what is best for our people”. Biodiversity and climate change are closely linked and cannot be addressed one without the other. “Kiribati is committed to raising ambitions for the post-2020 global biodiversity and climate change targets,” he said, calling upon leaders to enhance collective efforts.
Identifying food security as a shared priority across all small island developing States, he emphasized that it remains a priority under the SAMOA Pathway, as well as the Kiribati 20-year Vision plan. His Government supports the call by the Secretary-General for convening a Food Systems Summit. The Summit dialogue can trigger the creation of robust food systems in-country, he said, encouraging leaders to participate.
WAVEL RAMKALAWAN, President of Seychelles, said that the past two years have been a stark reminder of the global community’s failure to address the pressing issues of the times. Going into the second year of the Decade of Action to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, the world must act to guarantee a future that leaves no one behind. The pandemic brought about untold suffering, but it is also an opportunity to reinvigorate a collective will to bring about positive change, with an emphasis on equitable, sustainable and inclusive governance.
It is a disgrace that only 16 per cent of the 554 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines promised to the global South by the world’s richest nations have been delivered, he said, adding that so far, less than 3.5 per cent of people in Africa have been vaccinated. The COVAX facility, striving as it is doing against the odds, can fulfil its mandate only if the richest countries honour their pledges and commitments rather than using them as short-term leverage in one way or another.
Efforts to combat the pandemic must address economic imbalances and inequalities, he added, urging the international community to help the world’s most vulnerable economies to strengthen their resilience against future shocks. Noting that Seychelles’ economy, like that of many other small island developing States, was brought to its knees after the pandemic hit, he said that Member States must build consensus and cohesion with respect to those facing existential threats. The vulnerabilities of small island developing States are well-known, but a one-size-fits-all approach to debt relief and concessionary financing is not the right way forward. For those countries, applying a vulnerability index is the only viable way to resolve their predicament, he said.
Most small island developing States have achieved middle- or high-income status through hard work and a commitment to better the lives of their people, but it appears they are penalized for their success, he said, asking if international financial institutions are taking their vulnerabilities into account. Small island developing States also continue to be disproportionately affected by what can best be called environmental injustice. Pledges and commitments must be respected and honoured.
In light of the upcoming Glasgow climate conference, he called on the international community, particularly the larger emitters and the Group of 20 economies, to increase their national determined contributions to a level that meets or surpasses the requirements of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and averts a global catastrophe. He went on to call for the international community to restore hope and belief in the United Nations and to rebuild trust among nations in order to reduce inequalities; eradicate racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination; and instil purpose among peoples.
MOEKETSI MAJORO, Prime Minister of Lesotho, reiterated the need for converging efforts to fight the pandemic and expressed concern over the emerging Delta variant of the virus. Noting that even before the pandemic the world was already not on pace to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that landlocked least developed countries, such as his, required increased funding for health services, increased investment in physical infrastructure, scientific and technological development, and the establishment of agricultural extension services.
Creating a global coalition to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 must be high on the United Nations agenda ahead of the Climate Conference in Glasgow. Just like climate change, he noted that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are among the top threats facing humanity today. To ensure conformity with the Paris Agreement, his Government submitted its nationally determined contributions report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in June 2018. Guided by the principle of leaving no one behind, he called on the international community to support climate change adaptation and strengthen resilience, particularly for the most vulnerable countries.
“It is the obligation of all Member States to promote and protect the rights of all,” he continued, condemning all forms of attacks on civilian populations. The international community must collectively promote and protect the rights of all, restoring dignity for those who have experienced the “worst brunt of the evils of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”. He underlined the importance of multilateralism in facing today’s global challenges and threats, as well as the critical role of the United Nations.
He expressed his country’s support for the Palestinian and Saharawi people in their respective struggles for self-determination and for the Cuban people suffering from an economic blockade. “These matters must be addressed and resolved urgently, comprehensively and honestly, without fear or favour, and without malice to anybody,” he said, calling upon the international community to lift the embargo against Cuba and remove sanctions against Zimbabwe. On Western Sahara, he expressed confidence that its people, who “yearn for peace, freedom and the attainment of a right to determine their own destiny,” will find peace at the end of the process.
MARIO DRAGHI, President of the Council of Ministers of Italy, said recent years have seen a progressive weakening of the multilateralism that guaranteed peace, security and prosperity since the post-war period. Spotlighting the struggles against pandemics, climate change, biodiversity loss, inequality and terrorism — “problems that we cannot solve on our own” — he said the same issues are at the heart of Italy’s Presidency of the Group of 20 (G20). “We need to relaunch multilateralism and make it effective to meet the challenges of our times,” he stressed. While most of Europe is again open following long pandemic lockdowns, the consequences of COVID-19 will continue to be felt for a long time. He drew attention to the drastic disparities in vaccine access between high- and low-income countries, describing them as “morally unacceptable”, and warning that fewer vaccinations will mean more deaths.
Against that backdrop, he called for an urgent increase in the availability of COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries, noting that Italy fully supports the global COVAX Facility and intends to triple its donations from 15 to 45 million doses by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, economic disparities have made it more difficult for low-income countries to bounce back from the pandemic, eroding years of progress in the fight against poverty, and concerns about food systems have never been more urgent. Under the Italian Presidency, the G20 has adopted a package of economic measures to help the world’s most fragile countries overcome the effects of the pandemic and assist them in their development. Among other things, he noted, the Group supported the IMF decision to issue new special drawing rights for a total of $650 billion, and it intends to facilitate sustainable debt restructuring in countries with excessive debt levels.
He went on to outline his country’s concrete actions to improve global food security. Together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it launched the “Food Coalition” to combat malnutrition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and hosted the Pre-Summit on Food Systems in Rome. On climate change — another emergency at the core of Italy’s G20 Presidential agenda — he cited ambitious national goals on the three Paris Agreement pillars, namely mitigation, adaptation and finance. Italy strongly supports the European Union’s leading role in those areas, especially and its commitment to a 55 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. However, the European Union only accounts for 8 per cent of global emissions, while G20 countries are responsible for 75 per cent. More effective, coordinated and concreted action is needed from both wealthy and emerging economies.
Turning to other issues of concern, he said the one main challenge is the situation in Afghanistan, “where we face the risk of a social and civil catastrophe”. The international community must prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a threat for international security, he stressed, referring to the presence of groups affiliated with Al-Qaida and Da’esh on Afghan territory. Security objectives, prevention and respect for human rights and the rule of law must be combined with efforts to tackle the economic and social drivers that lead to radicalization and violent extremism. Women’s rights and fundamental freedoms must not be dismantled. Noting that the composition of the new Afghan Government does not meet the expectations of the international community for ethnic, social and religious inclusion, he declared: “The new rulers must prove with their actions, and not only in words, that they are committed to respecting individual freedoms.”
JAKUB KULHÁNEK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said that 20 years after the 9/11 attacks in the United States, vigilance against terrorism is needed more than ever. Afghanistan is a major challenge that requires joining forces to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. He expressed concern at Taliban actions directed at women and girls and called on them to ensure unhindered access to humanitarian workers and United Nations personnel, including those who are female. Underscoring the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that ongoing reform of WHO should deliver value for money. “We must learn our lessons and act in solidarity to leave no one behind,” he said.
By connecting the immediate pandemic response with prevention and resilience-building, it is possible to build back better and greener, with the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement at the centre of joint efforts, he said. The impact of climate change on peace and security should be integrated into the Security Council’s work. The increase in cyberattacks on critical infrastructure is appalling and the use of disinformation as a means of aggression against States is utterly unacceptable. States must ensure that new technologies are enablers of human progress, not a tool for surveillance, oppression and control. He called for the immediate release of all those unlawfully detained in Belarus for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly; underscored his country’s unwavering support of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine and Georgia; and emphasized Israel’s right to self-defence.
ALEXANDER SCHALLENBERG, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria, said the world is slowly finding its footing to overcome the pandemic, one vaccination at a time, after the virus brutally exposed its fragility, destroying the illusion that human progress is a one-way street. In the blink of an eye, the world lost decades of hard-earned development gains, and it will lose even more if nations cannot ensure that everyone has access to the vaccine as soon as possible. COVAX is among the most important initiatives today, having shipped more than 300 million doses with plans for more. Despite the pandemic, efforts must address those suffering in ongoing conflicts, including in Syria and Yemen, and the situation in Afghanistan. Urgent attention is also needed to tackle the climate crisis and to ensure a human-centric approach addresses new and emerging technologies — from artificial intelligence to lethal autonomous weapons systems — with full respect for human rights, online and offline. Austria has contributed to these and other efforts, including eliminating nuclear weapons and protecting the rule of law. “As we face the challenges ahead, here are some of the words I want to guide us: tolerance, trust, solidarity, truth, justice, compassion, humility and hope,” he said.
MARCELO EBRARD CASAUBÓN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, stated that the unprecedented pandemic crisis cannot be overcome with isolated, unilateral action but rather through renewed cooperation and international solidarity. Equitable and universal access to medicines and vaccines is urgently needed, he said, pointing out that only 1.4 per cent of people in low-income countries have access to vaccines compared to 33 per cent in high-income countries. Vaccines must be seen as a global public good, he said, adding that Mexico will present to the G20 a proposal that the international community recognize WHO-certified vaccines without conditions. Mexico will also contribute to reforming the international health system. It has donated more than 1 million vaccine doses to other Latin American countries.
On global warming, he said in 2020 Mexico presented its nationally determined contribution, which includes not only mitigation commitments but also an adaptation component including nature-based solutions. He cited Mexico’s large-scale “Sowing Life” reforestation programme, under which 700 million trees have already been planted, as an example. He voiced support for the Secretary-General’s report “Our Common Agenda” and the use of additional indicators other than gross domestic product to assess a country’s level of development. On Security Council reform, he said Mexico would continue to work for the organ to be more representative, democratic, transparent and efficient.
Turning to Mexico’s regional collaboration, he highlighted the country’s role in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and welcomed the start of the negotiations between the Government and the Unitary Platform of Venezuela. He also urged to end the economic blockade of Cuba, especially in the light of the ongoing health crisis. While supporting the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative and other debt relief programmes for least developed countries, he said similar mechanisms are also needed for middle-income-countries. He reaffirmed Mexico’s commitment to the promotion of human rights and the fight against hate speech, intolerance and violent extremism. Mexico also remains committed to the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and it has provided international protection for hundreds of vulnerable Afghans, particularly women and children. Mexico’s feminist foreign policy is in line with its goal of promoting a more equitable and just egalitarian society. The country has exchanged good practices on the subject, which led to the formation of the Global Network on Feminist Foreign Policy. “Sustainable peace is possible only if women and girls actively participate in its consolidation,” he said, noting that together with Ireland, Mexico chairs the Group of Experts on Women, Peace and Security in the Security Council.
PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said it was great that the Assembly was not meeting in a virtual format, as the essence of diplomacy is to meet, talk and do one’s best to overcome challenges. The last two years have seen a lot of problems, but while the situation has improved a bit, the crisis is not yet over. Vaccination is the only answer. Vaccines must be provided to everybody and produced in as many places as possible. Vaccines should not be a matter of ideology or politics because saving lives should not be ideological or political, he said, urging regulations at the national, regional and international level to authorize different types on the basis of facts, leaving politics out of the equation.
Discussing the pandemic’s serious economic consequences, he said the most important task now is to save as many jobs as possible, or at least to recover the lost jobs and create new ones. People must make their living from work and not depend on social assistance. Work brings dignity and a predictable future, he said, noting that Hungary has decided to pay back income tax to families with children if economic growth reaches 5.5 per cent. On cybercrime, he called for strict international regulation to protect families and children from extremist propaganda, pornography and cyberbullying on the Internet.
Without vaccines for everybody, there will be future massive waves of migration, he said. The more the virus spreads, the more people will migrate, and as more people migrate, the more the virus will spread. After 20 years in Afghanistan, the international community must analyse what mistakes were made, but for now the main duty is to mitigate the damage. Afghanistan must not be a safe place for terrorists, but additional migration from that country will threaten security in the region and in Europe. Afghanistan’s neighbours say its problems must be solved within its borders and that is the approach that the international community should follow. Hungary evacuated all Afghans who assisted its troops who participated in the international mission and it will take care of them, “but we will not receive anyone else”. Hungary, which opposed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, will protect its border, stand up to pressure and decide itself who will enter its territory, he said.