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GA/12369
25 September 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, 14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)

Ahead of Climate Conference, Small Island Developing States Call Out Rich Countries in General Assembly for Lacking Political Will to Stop Global Warming

Upcoming Glasgow Meeting ‘Point of New Return’, Speakers Warn, Stressing Major Carbon-Emitting Nations Should Face Consequences for Shirking Responsibility

With just over a month to go before a major United Nations climate change conference in Scotland, leaders of small island developing States took centre stage before the General Assembly today, saying their nations are facing an existential threat if rich countries fail to make good on their promises to turn the tide on global warming.

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, said the voices of small island developing States must be heard if the world is to build back “greener, bluer and better”.  Leaders unable to summon the courage to unveil commitments at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) — running from 1 to 12 November — should not bother booking a flight to Glasgow.  “Instead, they should face consequences that match the severity of what they are unleashing on our planet,” he said.

Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in the same vein, took major carbon-emitting countries to task for their “pious mouthings and marginal tinkering”.  Science, the real world, and the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change have pointed to alternative pathways for humanity, but greater political will and resources are needed to address the grave challenge of climate change, he said.

Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said that in the face of rising sea levels, “will Tuvalu remain a Member State of the United Nations if it is finally submerged?”  The cost of rebuilding after every tropical cyclone and adapting to increasing sea levels is leaving little fiscal space for investment in the Sustainable Development Goals, he stressed.

Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Prime Minister of Samoa, said major polluters and emitters must show more leadership.  “The upcoming Conference of the Parties in Glasgow is our point of no return,” she said.  Emphasizing the Pacific Ocean’s biodiversity, she said that securing maritime zones against rising sea levels — and preserving the rights and entitlements of Pacific island States — is a matter of fundamental importance.

Gaston Alfonso Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said official development assistance (ODA) should be viewed as a form of reparations for past environmental damage.  “This is a non-confrontational form of climate justice; the alternative is that affected States may be forced to take legal action in the international courts to seek compensation for provable damage,” he said.

Other speakers today took up topics ranging from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the scourge of terrorism, digital transformation and the future of multilateralism in an era of global geopolitical change.

Ariel Henry, Prime Minister of Haiti, thanked the Assembly for its support following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.  Haiti is determined to bring the perpetrators to justice, he said, requesting legal help to deal with the transnational crime.  He added that Haitians who have been mishandled at the Mexico-United States border should be treated fairly and humanely.

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, said countries that use terrorism as a political tool must realize that in doing so, they are creating a threat for themselves.  In that context, he stressed the primacy of ensuring Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism and that no country takes advantage of the delicate situation there for selfish interests.

Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said a “might is right” approach — rather than “right is might” — is evident in the principles of the world order.  Spotlighting persistent attempts to “sideline” the United Nations, he said the West practices a “double standard” on issues ranging from self-determination to democracy itself.

Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, said that political and security risks in Africa are taking a turn for the worse, with the forcible overthrow of Governments and a renewed appetite for intervention in sovereign States.  “Unless we swiftly change course, this will be yet another round to destabilize Africa and disenfranchise Africans in the determination of our destiny,” he said.

Also speaking today were Heads of Government and Ministers of Saint Lucia, Andorra, Eswatini, Malaysia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Sudan, Cambodia, Bhutan, Thailand, Vanuatu, Bahamas, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Mali, Liechtenstein and Singapore.

The Secretary of State of the Holy See also spoke.

The representative of Indonesia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Monday, 27 September, to conclude its general debate.

Statements

NARENDRA MODI, Prime Minister of India, underscoring that diversity was the at the heart of India’s democracy, said his country was moving into integrated and equitable development.  Over 430 million people have been brought into the banking system and 360 million people have been provided with insurance coverage.  In addition, his Government is working to eradicate homelessness by building 30 million homes.  Polluted water is a significant problem for poor and developing countries, he observed, highlighting a campaign to ensure piped clean water reaches over 170 million homes in India.  For the development of any country, people must have property rights to their homes and land.  To that end, India was using drones to map over 600,000 villages to give people digital records of their homes and lands, a process that will reduce property disputes and give people increased access to credit and bank loans.  Every sixth person in the world is Indian, he pointed out, emphasizing that “when India reforms, the world transforms”.

He went on to say that progress in the scientific and technological sectors in India was scalable, cost effective and could benefit the world.  Indeed, its new COVID-19 vaccine delivery programme offered digital support to register the administration of millions of doses in a single day.  As well, India developed the world’s first DNA vaccine, which can be administered to anyone above the age of 12, and an mRNA vaccine that is in the final stages of development, he announced.

The pandemic taught the world that the global economy needs to be expanded further, he continued.  For its part, India has struck a better balance between economy and ecology and is moving towards its renewable energy target quickly.  In that vein, his country is working to make itself the world’s largest green hydrogen hub.

Science-based, rational and progressive thinking must be the basis for development, he stressed.  For its part, India is rolling out innovative programmes in schools and will launch 75 satellites — made by Indian students — into space.  Countries with regressive thinking, that use terrorism as a political tool, must realize they create a threat for themselves, as well.  In that context, it was essential to ensure Afghanistan was not used to spread terrorism and that no country take advantage of the delicate situation there for selfish interests.

He stressed that, if the United Nations is to remain relevant, it will need to improve its effectiveness and enhance its reliability.  It will be vital for the Organization to meet challenges related to climate crisis, COVID-19, proxy wars and terrorism.  However, institutions of global governance have damaged the credibility they worked decades to build, he noted.

PHILIP JOSEPH PIERRE, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, underscored his firm commitment to the principle of non-interference in the internal politics of other nations.  He encouraged the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to coordinate foreign policy and maintain mutual respect.  He also highlighted that small island developing States continued to suffer from their vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change.  Regarding the pandemic, he thanked the COVAX Facility, as well as the United States and India, for providing access to vaccines.  However, he voiced his regret about the gap between nations in vaccine distribution and the lack of universal standards for quarantine, isolation and other requirements.

Pointing to Saint Lucia’s economic challenges, he called for the abolition of criteria for accessing concessional development finance, the adoption of a global vulnerability index, and immediate measures to safeguard the solvency of small island developing States.  These measures should include debt restructuring and write-off, support to strengthen health systems, more equitable distribution and access to vaccines and assistance for recovery.  The pandemic hindered the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Saint Lucia does not have the capacity to fight both COVID-19 and climate change, he stressed, and requested richer nations to fulfil their financial pledges by contributing to the adaptation and mitigation funds during the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26).

He noted that Saint Lucia remained among a handful of countries that maintain official relations with the Government of Taiwan and he invited nations to recognize that country as a legitimate partner in international institutions.  He also encouraged the United States and Cuba to pursue diplomatic reconciliation during the Biden-Harris Administration.  The embargo against Cuba hinders development in Cuba and the economic integration of the Caribbean region.  Voicing concern about the situation in Venezuela, he said that the economic embargo by a few powerful countries was unacceptable and the endorsement of an alternative illegitimate president outrageous.  The freezing of Venezuelan assets and the embargo on basic food and medical supplies was “modern day piracy, economic terrorism and crimes against humanity”, he declared.

Ensuring the balanced development of the global community required more solidarity and closer partnership with small island developing States, he underlined.  Pointing to Saint Lucia’s exploitation by European nations, he said that it put forward a case for reparations against slavery and native genocide.  Recalling his country’s endorsement of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, he emphasized that this was “an open wound crying of out for justice, healing, compassion and closure”.

XAVIER ESPOT ZAMORA, Head of Government of Andorra, observed that, although the United Nations has achieved great progress in many areas, the path that lies ahead is a long one.  Rich countries have insisted on their privileged position, hoarding vaccines and deepening inequality, he pointed out, calling on the international community for cooperation and resource mobilization to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19.  Vaccines are the most powerful tool in the fight against the pandemic, but they will remain ineffective if all people don’t have access to doses.  Vaccine inequality will lead to a catastrophic moral failure if the solution is only partly applied, he stressed.

The climate challenge also must be viewed collectively, he went on to say, emphasizing that the upcoming COP26 will be the last opportunity for the most powerful economies to make climate commitments.  Turning to food system security, he underscored that it was possible to reconcile with nature with solutions that promote the production of healthy food and science‑based, green sustainability.

On peace and security matters, he observed that the world was seeing worsening crises because of poverty, climate change and a reduction of international aid.  The United Nations has mechanisms to alleviate the effects of such crises, but must enhance efforts at prevention.  Education is a human right, one of the main catalysers of sustainable development, and the best way to change societies and protect the planet, he said.  Turning to gender parity, he emphasized the importance of including women and girls in decision‑making, stressing that the empowerment of women cannot be reversed by the pandemic.

On climate change mitigation, he reported that Andorra has accepted the terms of the Paris Agreement and is working to achieve its goals.  To that end, his country is promoting renewable energy and the use of natural products and resources to avoid material losses.  In response to the effects the pandemic had on its tourism sector, Andorra is rebuilding it as a sustainable vector of the economy, he said.

CLEOPAS SIPHO DLAMINI, Prime Minister of Eswatini, said his country experienced unimaginable setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and had to rethink its development strategy in order that no one was behind.  Stressing that an efficient plan to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic rested on national populations being vaccinated, he expressed concern about low access to vaccines by many countries.  As a beneficiary of the COVAX Facility, he thanked the United Nations and donors, particularly the United States, for their work on the implementation of this initiative.  “We bank on the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” he said, underlining that this arrangement will strengthen capacity of the African countries to produce more vaccines.  He also noted that Eswatini was aiming to achieve herd immunity by the end of 2021.

The pandemic prompted his Government to re-think resilience and make it a cornerstone of all mitigation, adaptation and recovery strategies, he continued.  Moreover, the crisis highlighted the global interconnectedness and clarified the meaning and practicality of “living in a global village”.  Ahead of the climate change conference in Glasgow, he reaffirmed his country’s resolve to support development of effective climate change responses, while fast‑tracking the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals on a national platform.

Turning to education, he said the closure of schools and institutions of higher learning during the pandemic had a devastating impact in the developing countries, which lacked access to digital learning resources.  Highlighting economic challenges experienced by his country during the pandemic, he thanked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for approving special drawing rights to boost global liquidity.  His country launched a reconstruction fund to rebuild infrastructure and economy, following its civil unrest.  Turning to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, he cited his country’s progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS, as well as in the introduction of a monitoring system to the national development framework.

Underscoring his Governments repeated call for Africa’s voice to be heard at the Security Council, he declared that the United Nations’ work will be revitalized when all members and regions are efficiently and effectively represented.  Detailing how the Tinkhundla system of governance works, he underscored that he supported democracy as an idea, but not as an ideal “because things that are ideal to you may not be ideal to other people”, he pointed out.

“Our country is committed to consultations with the people at the People’s Parliament, Sibaya,” he went on to say, spotlighting the democratic and participatory nature of this process.  As a nation, Eswatini was committed to the preservation of cultural norms and traditions, promotion of peace and stability, and dialogue.  Moreover, Eswatini offers every Liswati an opportunity to voice his or her opinion in a free and fair environment.  He also urged the United Nations to consider the meaningful participation of “Taiwan”, highlighting that country’s continued support in providing medical assistance to Eswatini’s health sector during the pandemic.

RALPH E. GONSALVES, Prime Minster of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, stressed that the international community must work together to defeat COVID-19 and return to an acceptable level of normalcy so economies can reopen.  In that pursuit, pre-existing, divisive and debilitating conditions ought to be addressed and historic wrongs righted.  “The metaphoric lions and lionesses, globally, ought to converse with each other meaningfully, rather than hanker for perpetual disorder, insecurity and war,” he stated, adding that they did not actually need to lie down with each other in joyous embrace, but simply compromise in the interest of all.

However, efforts to tackle the pandemic have been undermined by vaccine nationalism, the politicization of roll‑out and accessibility inequity, he pointed out.  While some rich countries in the North Atlantic region have delivered or agreed to deliver vaccines to some less developed countries from their surpluses, there might have been some slow deliveries that ended up, embarrassingly, with expired doses of the vaccines running into several millions, he observed.  Vaccine roll‑out programmes were further compromised by behemoths in global communications, enveloped in mega profits and profiteering, that own and control the various Internet platforms.  Such entities have operated with little or no public regulation nor any real sense of responsibility for the anti-vaccination misinformation and disinformation which occupy cyberspace.  Consequently, real people have died in multitudes across the world, he stressed.

Turning to climate matters, he cautioned that a looming ecological disaster awaits humanity unless it changes course.  Science, the real world and the Paris Agreement have pointed to alternative pathways for humanity, but the political will and requisite resources from the major emitters to address the grave challenge of climate change have not gone much beyond “pious mouthings and marginal tinkering”.

Outlining the myriad economic challenges facing developing countries, he called for meaningful debt restructuring and a favourable reform of the global financial architecture.  That would need to include replacing certain wrong-headed criteria, such as gross domestic product (GDP) per head of population.  Also essential in those efforts was the cessation of unilateral sanctions and the weaponizing of the financial and banking systems against small States, including the termination of corresponding banking relationships.  He went on to stress the need for reparatory justice from European nations in respect of native genocide and African enslavement, from which the European nations profited systematically.

As for Security Council reform, he demanded renewed impetus to address the stranglehold of the five permanent members.  As a non-permanent member of the Council for the last two years, his country has been a central party to the establishment of an institutional nexus known as the A3+1 [the three non‑permanent members from Africa plus Saint Vincent and the Grenadines], offering to the proceedings a distinctive voice for Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, he reported.

ARIEL HENRY, Prime Minister of Haiti, expressed his gratitude to the General Assembly for its support following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.  He reaffirmed his determination to bring perpetrators to justice and he requested legal assistance to deal with this transnational crime.  Turning to the COVID-19 pandemic, he thanked the COVAX Facility and other bilateral initiatives for providing access to vaccines.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees identified 80 million uprooted people including 30 million refugees and asylum-seekers, he said.  This was paving the way for an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.  He invited the international community to improve the living conditions of refugees in compliance with the fundamental principles of the Geneva Conventions.  As well, he recalled that the world was shocked by the videos of Haitians recently mishandled at the Mexico-United States border.  These individuals should be treated fairly and humanely, he stated.

Insecurity and political instability were major challenges in Haiti, he continued.  Considering the lack of democratic institutions, he added that he has been trying to govern by establishing a dialogue with political parties and civil society.  A consensus was the only way to ensure political stability in the country.  To that end, a political agreement for a peaceful and efficient transition was published a few days ago in the official journal.  This agreement aims to ensure security during the organization of the forthcoming elections and compels the Government to be transparent and accountable.  All relevant stakeholders would be invited to contribute to the new Constitution, which would be adopted by means of a referendum.  The Government remained open to achieve consensus and to work with all stakeholders for a timely and peaceful transition.

Haiti was one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, he said.  The recent earthquake of 14 August was an illustration of what the country is facing.  This tragedy resulted in 2,207 deaths and 12,268 injuries.  It also destroyed thousands of houses, hospitals, churches and vital infrastructure.  He thanked the international community for its assistance and urged that such assistance remain throughout the reconstruction process.  Haiti has been working with its partners to elaborate a post-disaster needs assessment which should be concluded in the coming weeks.  This step was critical to starting the reconstruction of the southern peninsula.

He underscored that fighting poverty and creating wealth were priorities for his Government.  Calling for a stronger multilateral system to enable the development of joint strategies against major challenges, he also invited the world to consider the aspirations of Taiwan, which has a role to play in the promotion of international cooperation.

ISMAIL SABRI YAAKOB, Prime Minister of Malaysia, affirming his country’s  commitment to recover from the deadly pandemic, stated that no one was safe unless everyone was safe.  “We must fight this battle together,” he stressed, urging that the deep-rooted challenges of inequality, political instability and global governance be addressed in the spirit of a world family.  He observed with regret that, despite all the efforts to curb the pandemic, the world was far from winning the war against the deadly virus.  “Our relief that vaccines were developed in record time was quickly followed by distress at its discriminatory roll‑out,” he said, calling for a more effective health diplomacy by means of enhancing access of countries to relevant technology and knowledge.

He further noted that COVID-19 amplified pre-existing inequalities and set back many gains in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.  Consequently, Malaysia’s GDP contracted by 5.6 per cent — the worst decline in more than 20 years since the Asian financial crisis.  He further detailed the efforts of his Government to address this unprecedented health crisis, including through the implementation of the National Recovery Plan.

“For Malaysia, mainstreaming sustainability is key in ensuring a smooth transition to a greener socioeconomic ecosystem,” he continued, outlining plans towards making his country a low‑carbon nation by 2050.  He also underscored Malaysia’s support to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  As a multicultural, multiracial and multireligious country, Malaysia remains a strong proponent of multilateralism, he said, underlining the essential role of respect and mutual understanding in international discourse.  “We should learn to celebrate and treat differences with genuine curiosity and meaningful respect,” he stated.

Addressing the situation in Myanmar and the Rohingya issue, he stressed that a peaceful solution must be found.  Spotlighting the troubling refugee crisis, he pointed out that Malaysia hosts more than 154,000 refugees from Myanmar, comprising 86 per cent of the refugee population in the country.  On the Palestinian issue, he stated that inhumane acts committed against the Palestinians over the years were tantamount to the crime of apartheid.

He also recalled the recent terrorist attack outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  “The region cannot be allowed to be turned into a fertile breeding ground for terrorism again,” he concluded, expressing readiness of his country to extend humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.  On that note, he called on Member States to demonstrate openness, flexibility and political will in order to pursue the reform of the United Nations in the interest of international peace, security and prosperity.

PHANKHAM VIPHAVANH, Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, urged countries and scientists to make concerted efforts in the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines.  He also called for cooperation on COVID-19 origin‑tracing and for the developed countries to enhance assistance to the developing and least developed countries.  Underlining the negative impact of COVID-19 on his country’s national economic growth, he highlighted national efforts to implement the Istanbul Programme of Action to graduate from the least developed country status.  Although the Lao People’s Democratic Republic successfully met all three criteria for graduation in the second review in February, he remained concerned that the impacts of COVID-19 might impair its competence to remain on track.

Actively participating and contributing under the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), he stressed his country’s commitment to reducing the disparity in development and promoting the intra-ASEAN and interregional connectivity.  This focus included the implementation of the fourth Initiative for ASEAN Integration and the Masterplan for ASEAN Connectivity 2025, which aims to promote infrastructure development, poverty reduction and sustainable development in the region.  One of the milestone events among his country’s efforts in promoting regional integration and economic infrastructure development was the inauguration of the Boten-Vientiane high-speed railway, built to connect China and the Lao People's Democratic Republic, by the end of 2021.  This will mark his country’s first‑ever railway and the beginning of the transformation from a landlocked country into a land-linked one promoting regional trade.

He called for the lifting of the economic embargo on Cuba, which would enable the country to contain the outbreak of COVID-19 and sustain self‑development.  He also called on relevant parties to resume dialogues and mutual trust-building to solve the issues remaining in the establishment of two sovereign States of Palestine and Israel, peacefully coexisting under the relevant United Nations resolutions.

Turning to climate change, he spotlighted how his country was integrating its commitment under the Paris Agreement into its National Socio-Economic Development Plan and the National Green Growth Strategy.  From 2000 to 2020, his country’s greenhouse‑gas emissions were lowered by 34 per cent in comparison with the baseline.  Furthermore, in its nationally determined contribution presented to the United Nations, his Government has targeted to reduce 60 per cent of greenhouse‑gas emissions by 2030.  As well, he called on States to support the Lao People’s Democratic Republic candidature for membership of the Economic and Social Council for the term 2023-2025.

ABDALLA ADAM HAMDOK, Prime Minister of Sudan, said only international cooperation and multilateral action can give true meaning to the slogan “no one is safe till everyone is safe” while ensuring access to vaccines for poor countries.  He commended the World Health Organization’s provision of technical assistance to Sudan and the effective role it has played since the outbreak of coronavirus.  He said that in order to build a safe and stable Sudan, “where everyone lives in peace prosperity”, the Transitional Government continues to implement policies that seek to lay the foundations for democracy and the rule of law and to promote human rights.

Outlining recent progress, he highlighted Sudan’s ratification of the international conventions against enforced disappearances and against torture, as well as its adoption of a foreign policy strategy “based on the principles of mutual respect, good neighbourly relations, and cooperation”.  He also highlighted the economic, security and political impact of the flow of refugees into Sudan.  Recalling the 2020 appeal of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he urged the international community to uphold its pledges, saying that will enable his Government to better address that humanitarian crisis.

Concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River, he warned of the dangers posed by Addis Ababa’s second unilateral filling of its reservoir while emphasizing his country’s readiness to participate in “any peaceful initiative bringing all parties concerned together in search of an agreement acceptable to all parties”.  He went on to stress that, despite the progress made during the “glorious revolution” after decades of injustice, Sudan continues to face “sizable challenges” in its pursuit of economic reforms.  Calling for international support, he thanked France for organizing the Paris conference and all countries that have forgiven Sudan's foreign debt.

He noted that Sudan’s removal from the list of the State sponsors of terrorism enables his country to “return to the international family after an absence of three decades”.  Highlighting Khartoum’s signing of the status-of-forces agreement with the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAM), he affirmed his Government’s commitment to provide the facilities necessary to support the Mission’s goal — Sudan’s democratic transition in accordance with resolution 2425 (2018).  Sudan hopes the international community, the United Nations and UNITAM will play an effective role in building peace, ensuring the return of displaced persons and in mobilizing resources for demobilization and reintegration – all of which will expedite implementation of the peace agreement, he said.

SAMDECH AKKA MOHA SENA PADEI TECHO HUN SEN, Prime Minister of Cambodia, said his country has joined international efforts to rollout a widespread vaccination campaign and expects to vaccinate around 80 per cent of his country’s total population (of around 16 million) by no later than November .  With good vaccination progress, strong containment and treatment measures, Cambodia looks forward to a gradual reopening of a sustainable and inclusive social and economic activity, he said.

Recalling that interference in internal affairs and military attempts to impose different systems of governance has led to death, human suffering and misery, he said that, regarding to the recent events in Afghanistan, it was critical to respect the wishes of each nation and their people’s rights to self‑determination.  Calling for a strengthened multilateralism and rules-based international cooperation, he stressed that the development of countries, large and small, should not be hindered by unilateral sanctions, embargoes or other coercive economic measures that violate international law and the very principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.  Recalling that his country will host the thirteenth Summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting, he pointed out that multilateralism will top the meeting’s agenda.

On climate change, he reiterated his country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and pledged support to the Secretary-General’s call for scaling up regional adaptation and mitigation efforts.  Turning to the peace and security agenda, he spotlighted Cambodia’s long‑standing position that the primary responsibility for the maintenance of the international peace and security rests with the United Nations.

He went on to note that, since 2006, Cambodia has contributed more than 7,500 troops to serve in various peacekeeping missions across the globe.  He voiced his support for the Secretary-General’s “Action for Peacekeeping Plus” initiative and women, peace and security agenda, which will help integrate a gender perspective in various peacekeeping operations.  The changing realities of the twenty-first century demand a responsive United Nations, he stressed, reaffirming Cambodia’s support for Security Council reform.  “We are of the view that the foremost priority should be given to increasing the representation of developing countries, which comprise the vast majority of Member States,” he said.

As incoming Chair of ASEAN, Cambodia will continue to push for a more vibrant and harmonious ASEAN community, he stated.  It will focus on better protection of migrant workers, a greener and more inclusive development agenda and a more advanced digital transformation for micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as women and youth entrepreneurship.

JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji, stressed that while the pandemic was ending for wealthy nations, the situation was worsening for the developing world.  The economic blow to poor nations was severe and it was important to support their recovery.  In his country, over 98 per cent of adults had received one jab of the vaccine and more than 67 per cent were fully vaccinated, thanks to India, Australia, New Zealand and the United States who provided vaccines.

However, Fiji was still recovering from the pandemic’s economic impact.  He announced that it would soon reopen its borders to welcome tourism and international business.  Nonetheless, he noted his dismay at countries who were considering third vaccine doses or boosters while millions of people remained unvaccinated in developing countries.  “Vaccine nationalism must end,” he said, joining the call from other leaders to convene a United Nations urgent special meeting on the deployment of vaccines to developing nations.

Vaccine inequity reflected the injustice resulting from the international economic system, he said, pointing out that small States had to borrow at punitive rates while developed countries had access to financing at very low-interest rates.  During the pandemic, Fiji rolled out its largest cash transfer programme, providing benefits to a large share of its population.  As a result, debt levels increased significantly.  He urged the international community to recognize the needs of small island developing States and called for a more sophisticated framework to assess debt sustainability.

Further international cooperation on the climate crisis should be sought, he continued.  Small island developing States’ voices must be heard to build back “greener, bluer and better”.  Global warming was track to rise to 2.7°C, resulting in the disappearing of low-lying nations in the Pacific and severe climate-related events.  Therefore, access to financial resources was essential to build resilience, he underlined.  While his country aimed to achieve carbon neutrality, he pointed out that “Fiji can’t halt climate change by itself.”  Furthermore, it was deplorable that small island developing States only had access to 2 per cent of the available climate finance.  Building resilience would require fast-deploying targeted grants, long-term concessionary financing and financial tools and instruments established through public-private partnerships.

He went on to say that Fiji relied heavily on a healthy ocean. Thus, it has committed to 100 per cent sustainable management of its exclusive economic zone, adding that 30 per cent would be declared marine protected areas by 2030.  However, illegal fishing remains an issue.  A new international treaty was needed to preserve marine life in waters beyond national jurisdictions.  He also called for COP26 to lock the “oceans pathway” into the Framework processes.  It was imperative the 1.5°C target be kept alive.  Therefore, large nations must achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.  Leaders who cannot summon the courage to unveil these commitments and policy packages at COP26 should not bother booking a flight to Glasgow, he stated, adding:  “Instead, they ‑ and the selfish interests they stand for ‑ should face consequences that match the severity of what they are unleashing on our planet.”  If the international community did not tolerate war between nations, how could it tolerate the war being waged against the planet, upon which life depended. “That is the firm red line Pacific nations will draw in Glasgow. We are demanding net-zero emissions and accepting zero excuses,” he stated.

LOTAY TSHERING, Prime Minister of Bhutan, noted that, when the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, his country sailed through “with a minimum scratch from the pandemic”.  His country had only 3 COVID deaths and slightly over 2,500 cases so far, most of which were imported cases.  The vaccination coverage for 12 years of age and older was now almost 80 per cent.  Despite having constrained resources, Bhutan did not compromise on the quality and standards of the COVID measures, adding that the Government delivered uninterrupted routine health services.  Besides the regular vaccination programmes, Bhutan introduced HPV vaccines for the first time for boys and flu shots for everyone.

“Just like the rest of the world, we are looking at the pandemic as an opportunity to reset ourselves,” he continued, highlighting that the process to overhaul Bhutan’s civil service in line with education reform was under way.  Knowing that the path ahead is information and communications technology-driven, the country has started digital initiatives with the goal for everyone in Bhutan to have a digital ID as a build-up for a big data system.  The Central Bank was also piloting a project on digital Ngultrum, Bhutan’s currency, using blockchain technology.  He also described the “De-Suung” programme which engaged Bhutanese citizens in a greater role of nation building.  In addition, volunteers were helping guard the borders and entry points, ensuring everyone followed COVID-19 norms.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) projects a global shortfall of 75 million jobs this year and 23 million in 2022, he pointed out, calling the ongoing national youth engagement programmes a major step in recovering from the pandemic.  Stressing that nobody knows where SARS-CoV-3 is incubating, he stressed:  “We must be prepared with a more resilient system for the future.”  Thus, quality health care must be easily accessible and affordable by everyone.

As well, the pandemic disrupted the already‑weak global food system, he noted.  Over 90 million people in the Asia-Pacific region alone were pushed back into extreme poverty in the pandemic’s aftermath.  Therefore, the international community must coordinate clear action plans to meet the immediate food shortage.  In that regard, climate change always tested the resilience of cultivated food, as well as the patience of the growers.  “We must talk about tough climate laws as a component of nationally determined contributions from all countries,” he stated.

The COVID-19 pandemic will leave behind a different world, he said.  The Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda offered a good reference point for collective progress.  He expressed his country’s commitment to work with other Member States in advancing the ideas of the report.  Highlighting that the theme of the seventy-sixth General Assembly session was designed for Bhutan, he highlighted how the pandemic brought out the very essence of his country’s gross national happiness, which seeks collective happiness and not just of oneself.  “It calls for us to act in unity,” he said.

PRAYUT CHAN-O-CHA, Prime Minister of Thailand, urged that COVID-19 vaccines and medicines be considered global public goods accessible to all.  To this end, he encouraged the international community to utilize the Bangkok Principles, which provide guidance on the implementation of the health aspects of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Climate action is a priority for Thailand, as it is a country rich in biodiversity with a large agricultural sector, he continued, adding that his country is geared to achieve carbon neutrality by 2065-2070.  It also plans to increase the proportion of renewable energy to at least 50 per cent of the total amount of electricity generated and to increase the use of electric vehicles to 30 per cent of total domestic vehicles.

Stressing balanced and environment-friendly development, he affirmed Thailand’s commitment to the initiative on the Eastern Economic Corridor and emphasized the importance of extending financial assistance and technology transfers for research and development and innovation to developing countries.  In this regard, he said that, as the ASEAN Coordinator on Sustainable Development Cooperation, his country was committed to promoting complementarities between the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the 2030 Agenda through the promotion of the Bio‑Circular-Green Economy Model.  To this end, the sufficiency economy philosophy was utilized as a guideline.

Turning to Afghanistan, he said that Thailand has pledged $150,000 to support United Nations organizations in the country to alleviate the humanitarian crisis there.  In addition, his Government has also made financial contributions to assist Haiti.  As well, Thailand and other core group States considered the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 22 January as an encouraging manifestation of the determination of the global community to comply with commitments under the United Nations Charter in promoting a world that is free from nuclear weapons for succeeding generations.  He further stressed his country’s support for fostering peace and reconciliation in Myanmar through multilateral diplomacy, based on the Five-Point Consensus agreed by ASEAN countries.

Noting that Thailand will co-host the Global South-South Development Expo in 2022 in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, as well as host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, he raised three priorities going forward:  facilitating trade and investment; rebooting regional connectivity, particularly in the travel and tourism industry; and advancing sustainable and inclusive growth.

BOB LOUGHMAN WEIBUR, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, stated that disease and despair have characterized the past two years, with inequality and instability growing across the globe.  The international community must adapt to the “new normal” and work together.  The pandemic has set back achievements of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.  Evidence of climate change effects have been increasing, including record-breaking wildfires, flooding and more extreme temperatures.  Rapid reductions in greenhouse‑gas emissions are urgently needed to limit warming to near 1.5°C.  For small island developing States, climate change is one of the biggest threats, alongside the management of oceans and COVID-19.  To recover “better together” the international community must act at the global and national levels while building inclusive economies and resilient societies.

In all countries, the economic shock caused by the pandemic has exposed structural weaknesses, notably in health and social‑protection systems, he continued.  For Vanuatu, the pandemic was followed by the Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Harold, which caused extensive devastation in April 2020.  Navigating recovery will be challenging if the pandemic is not contained soon.  Although, Vanuatu managed to escape transmission of COVID-19, the lockdown on international borders crippled its economy.  About 10 per cent of the eligible population has been vaccinated in Vanuatu and the Government has educated the citizens on the benefits of vaccines and is mobilizing mass vaccination.  “Vaccine access remains the most critical issue for the global recovery,” he stressed.

Vanuatu has taken a bold step to graduate out of the least developed countries category in 2020, he continued.  To that end, he highlighted the need for United Nations agencies to improve monitoring mechanisms for graduating and graduated countries.  The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) must continue support for graduating least developed countries in preparing strategies for smooth transitions and scaling up its technical assistance to graduated countries in implementing and monitoring those strategies.

New Caledonia, French Polynesia and West Papua are still struggling for self-determination, he pointed out, drawing attention to the principle of “equal rights and self-determination of peoples”, as mentioned in the United Nations Charter.  He expressed his hope that the United Nations-led process draws a clear pathway towards achieving a peaceful settlement of these disputed islands.  Highlighting that the indigenous people of West Papua continue to suffer from human rights violations, he called on the Indonesian Government to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit the West Papua province and provide an independent assessment of the human rights situation.

PHILIP EDWARD DAVIS, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, called for equitable distribution of vaccines, including to small island developing States, which are not manufacturers.  It is also important to make safe treatments and therapeutics accessible and to designate them as public goods, he said.  Recalling the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in 2019, he urged States to raise their ambitions and make real commitments to cut emissions at COP26 in Glasgow.  That entails real progress on bridging the gaps in investment and access to technology and skills, especially in the areas of climate mitigation and adaptation, he said, emphasizing the need for more innovative financing and debt solutions, including for climate adaptation swaps.

He said his country looks forward to the capitalization of a Caribbean Resilience Fund, adding that the Bahamas needs adequate resources and timely access to the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Finance Accelerator.  Asserting that his country will lead on wetland and ocean preservation, he said it will seek re-election to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and looks forward to the Biodiversity Conference next month, stressing that the Bahamas is committed to outcomes leading to an international treaty on conserving marine biodiversity.  He went on to point out the increasing gap in global financing for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, estimated at $2.5 trillion in 2019, and reiterated his country’s support for the inclusion of a multidimensional vulnerability index in the decision-making of international financial institutions and the international donor community.

POHIVA TU‘I‘ONETOA, Prime Minister of Tonga, pointed out that although his country remained COVID-19‑free, it was not spared from the socioeconomic consequences thereof.  Tonga was the third country in the Pacific to receive the COVID-19 vaccine doses in March through the COVAX Facility.  Approximately one third of the population has already been vaccinated and the Government is aiming to vaccinate up to 70 per cent by the end of 2022.  Accordingly, he called for timely and equitable access to vaccines while supporting a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights waiver.

“Climate change is the single greatest threat facing the blue Pacific while recommitting to the goals of the Paris Agreement,” he said, highlighting that Tonga was one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change due to geographical and economic factors.  It was ranked by the 2017 World Risk Report as the second‑most at-risk country in the world to natural disasters, such as cyclones, flooding and sea‑level rise.  While the country contributes a negligible amount to global greenhouse‑gas emissions, his Government supports the goal of limiting global warming through the submission of nationally determined contributions.

He went on to express concern about the threat posed by sea‑level rise to the Pacific region, underscoring that maritime zones must be delineated in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and should not be challenged due to climate‑change‑related sea‑level rise.  If countries fail to reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions, it will result in an increase on average of sea level.  The Pacific region, because of its setting of low-lying small island States and atolls, was experiencing sea‑level rise in a more extensive form than others.  Thus, low-lying coasts such as Tonga will only have a short time to adapt.  These impacts hinder the progress of achieving Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda, he stressed.

“Achieving the crucial goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is a moral obligation of each country,” he emphasized, calling on major emitters to commit to stronger climate action to achieve a net‑zero carbon by 2050.  The sustainable use of ocean resources is critical, given the strong linkages between the people of the Pacific region and the ocean.  Therefore, urgent actions are needed on the achievement of ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the Samoa Pathway.  It was disheartening to see how the pandemic caused major disruptions in the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda, he said, reaffirming his country’s commitment to sustainable development and resilience through multilateralism.

SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, stated that approach of “might is right” is being used instead of “right is might”.  Amid a lack of consensus among the leading Powers as to the principles of the world order, there are persistent attempts to diminish the role of the United Nations, “sideline” it or make it a malleable tool for promoting selfish interests, he noted, adding that they are visible in the “rules-based order” concept that the West is introducing into political discourse.  The West seeks to exclude those who have a different point of view from the global decision-making process, he asserted, noting that Germany and France recently announced the “Alliance for Multilateralism”, despite the existence of the ultimate multilateral forum — the United Nations.  Similarly, the United States initiative for a “Summit for Democracy” will hijack the right to decide the degree to which other countries meet the standards of democracy — an initiative in the spirit of a cold war.

Reiterating that the “rules-based order” is founded on double standards, he said that when it serves the West’s interests, the right to self-determination is rendered absolute — as with Kosovo, “forcefully seized from a European country, Serbia”, and recognized as an independent State.  On the other hand, when self-determination contradicts the West’s geopolitical interests, as with Crimea and the 2014 referendum on that peninsula’s reunification with Russia, the result is “illegitimate sanctions”.  Emphasizing the need for unity in the face of global challenges, he called for adapting the Security Council to the reality of a “polycentric world order”, enlarging it with increased representation of Asian, African and Latin American States.  Concerning prospects for Russian-American dialogue on the future of arms control, he said “when there is good will, finding mutually acceptable solutions is very real”.  He urged a responsible approach in other spheres of strategic stability, contrasting the withdrawal of the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Russian Federation’s unilateral commitment not to deploy land-based intermediate- or shorter-range missiles in regions where no similar American-made weapons are present.  He encouraged members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to proclaim a similar moratorium, with mutual verification measures.

Pointing to new challenges and threats, including “militarization” of the Internet into a cyberarms race, he called for responsible use of information and communications technologies, a universal convention on combating cybercrime, and the prohibition of weapons in outer space.  Regarding international conflict zones, he urged external actors in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and other hotbeds to demonstrate understanding of the cultural and civilizational specifics of those societies and reject politicization.  Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians must be relaunched, with a galvanized role for the Quartet of international mediators, in coordination with the League of Arab States, he stressed.  He offered to share the Russian Federation’s unique experience of peaceful coexistence among different civilizations, religions, and cultures, calling for strengthening the central role of the United Nations in building the environmental protection agenda.  “We are all different, but this must not bar us from working for the benefit of our nations and the entire humanity,” he stressed, proposing use of a new hashtag: #UNCharterIsOurRules.

FIAME NAOMI MATAAFA, Prime Minister of Samoa, said that for Pacific communities, climate change is about survival.  Everyone must shoulder their responsibilities and the big polluters and emitters must show more commitment and leadership.  “The upcoming Conference of the Parties in Glasgow is our point of no return,” he said.  Emphasizing the Pacific Ocean’s biodiversity, she said that securing maritime zones against rising sea levels — and preserving the rights and entitlements of Pacific island States — is a matter of fundamental importance.

All countries must unite to prevent and reduce marine pollution, she said, noting that according to United Nations reports, more than 8 million tons of plastics wind up in the ocean.  “If this continues, by 2050, our oceans will have more plastics than fish,” she said.  Samoa supports finalizing a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction as soon as possible.

Welcoming this week’s Food Systems Summit, she said that access to a balanced and nutritious diet is her country’s main concern.  That will return the population to locally produced quality fresh food and less processed imported food.  She acknowledged that 2021 has been a difficult time for Samoa, with some people describing the events that followed its elections as a constitutional crisis, but the rule of law prevailed and today the country remains peaceful and free of COVID-19.

Online criminals are more advanced than small island developing States when it comes to cybercrime, she said, emphasizing that countries like hers depend on global action to combat and prevent that scourge.  She asked that outstanding issues relating to the proposed monitoring framework for the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway be concluded with urgency.  Noting the pandemic’s impact on small island developing States which rely on tourism and remittances, she endorsed the idea of a multidimensional vulnerability index.  Eligibility for concessional finance could thus be subject to more than just income-based criteria, she explained.

KAUSEA NATANO, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said that his country, which is on average no more than two metres above sea level, is extremely vulnerable to climate change, rising sea levels and natural disasters.  “Will Tuvalu remain a Member State of the United Nations if it is finally submerged?” he wondered.  “Who can help us, and will they help us?”  Without answers to these difficult questions, sustainable development for low-lying countries will only be wishful thinking.  Tuvalu is coping and adapting, as statelessness is not an option, but the international community must think of ways to protect the rights of people affected by climate change “and to avoid chaotic responses to uncontrolled mass climate displacement”.

He drew attention to the efforts Tuvalu is making, including a new initiative — to be advanced by like-minded countries — for protecting the Statehood of small atoll island nations facing existential threats from rising sea levels.  Domestically, it has streamlined resilience into its 10-year national strategy for sustainable development.  He acknowledged the help Tuvalu is getting from the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and others, but emphasized that such support must be scaled up to meet growing climate adaptation needs.

“The cost of rebuilding after every tropical cyclone and adapting to increasing sea levels leaves little fiscal space for investment in the Sustainable Development Goals,” he continued.  He reiterated the call made by Pacific leaders in 2019 in the Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now for the international community to do more to meet the 1.5°C target, in addition to the $100 billion global climate finance target and replenishing the Green Climate Fund to support climate adaptation needs and end fossil fuel subsidies.

The upcoming Glasgow climate summit will be a make-or-break Conference of the Parties where developed countries and major economics must demonstrate leadership, including making good on the financial promises contained in the Paris Agreement, he said.  Tuvalu looks forward to the United Nations streamlining climate change and security into the work of its various bodies, thus building an Organization that is responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable States.  He went on to call for the United Nations to allow Taiwan passport holders onto its premises, and expressed regret that Cuba is still subject to a unilateral economic embargo.

GASTON ALPHONSO BROWNE, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said the international community is failing to deliver policies to support peace, health, a viable planet and other pressing needs, citing the lack of a global COVID-19 response and vaccination programme as a tragic example.  If developed countries had acted in a manner allowing for full vaccine access and medical supplies from the start, the world would be in a better place.  Developing countries were not seeking handouts, but most vaccines from major pharmaceutical companies had been overpriced and hoarded by a few wealthy nations, leaving the rest of the world bereft of the means to save their people.  This selfish nationalism forced most nations to rely on vaccine charity, which in itself has not solved the problem of large numbers of unvaccinated people worldwide.  Despite years of warnings, the world was unprepared, and the countries that must bear the burden of responsibility for this must be those who control the world’s health systems, which have to date failed to offer the necessary resources amid a dearth of coordinated global leadership, he said, noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) became an underfunded and under-resourced scapegoat.

“Often, the cries of small countries are either ignored or discarded, even on the few occasions when we actually get a seat at the table,” he continued.  Commending the United States for recently convening a global summit on COVID-19, he said small island developing States had voiced their concerns, including that building back better following the pandemic’s economic devastation will be harder than for nations with larger economies, as they continue to struggle to recover and inoculate their populations.  For its part, Antigua and Barbuda has made COVID-19 inoculations mandatory for public sector workers to protect the lives of all, including visiting tourists.  But the vaccine apartheid must stop, he said, pointing to disturbing reports that some countries do not recognize doses produced in the Caribbean region.  WHO, IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations must start now to prepare for future pandemics.  Also, the Security Council should be treating pandemics as major security risks to the world and act accordingly to use its full powers to meet these global threats.  Never again should the world be caught unprepared to manage and end a pandemic swiftly nor should it repeat the current selfish display of nationalism in tackling a global threat.

The same argument applies to climate change, he said, noting that the COP26 will be an opportunity for reflection.  Global solidarity and firm commitments are required, including access to financing, technologies and funding packages for small island developing States that include significant amounts of official development assistance (ODA) in grants, not loans.  Such ODA should not be seen as charity, but as a form of climate reparations to compensate for past environmental damage.  No new or significant sums of money would be needed to achieve much-needed debt cancellations; they would be mere book entries that will bring significant relief and sustainability to small island developing States and would not add any financial pressures for industrialized countries.  “This is a non-confrontational form of climate justice; the alternative is that affected States may be forced to take legal action in the international courts to seek compensation for provable damage,” he said, adding that such a course is not one that small States would take with alacrity, but from necessity.

“We want global solidarity in the face of global adversity,” he declared, highlighting a need to realign the international financial architecture to expedite a global transition into renewables to achieve carbon neutrality.  While developed countries in North America and Europe are urging small and vulnerable States to transition to alternative energy, they spend $1.6 trillion annually to subsidize fossil fuel businesses.  By contrast, only $2 billion is being made available to developing countries.  If developed countries simply shifted their spending from providing subsidies to fossil fuel businesses to helping developing countries to cope with climate change consequences, they would not have to spend one additional cent and would create more opportunities for renewable energy in their own countries.  Similarly, investments in nuclear weapons cannot sustain the planet, but investing in combating climate change will certainly save the Earth.  Dealing with COVID-19 and climate change successfully is what will give future generations a chance to live in peace, prosperity and safety, he said, emphasizing that:  “Those generations are our children and grandchildren.  So what future do we want for them?  Should we not act to give them the glorious future we want for them, and that they deserve?  We certainly should.”

MANASSEH SOGAVARE, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, said effectively tackling global challenges — from COVID-19 to rising sea levels — calls for a strong multilateral system of genuine, durable partnerships and cooperation between countries.  The Assembly’s timely theme aptly summarizes these challenges, with the battle against the pandemic being of utmost importance, requiring concerted collective action by all Member States using all forms of bilateral and multilateral partnerships.  For its part, Solomon Islands has so far successfully controlled the pandemic’s spread, with no reports of active cases in five months, and its two-pronged approach has kept citizens safe and the economy afloat.  The pandemic highlighted health system gaps and response capacities, allowing the Government to improve services and facilities nationwide, he said, thanking partners and the COVAX facility for their support.  The Government introduced recovery measures and forged bilateral partnerships to address the pandemic’s economic impact amid a rising $96 million trade deficit, a 13 per cent drop in exports and travel restrictions that are choking the tourism sector.

Turning to the existential threat posed by climate change, he said this global issue needs a global solution.  As the world falls behind in its commitments, he said the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report delivered the starkest warning yet about a deepening emergency.  Strongly calling on all major greenhouse gas emitting countries to cut emissions and take more ambitious action, he said COP26 presents an opportunity to operationalize the Paris Agreement and conclude negotiations on the Paris Rulebook, including a common timeframe for nationally determined contributions.

As a large ocean State, he said, Solomon Islands’ exclusive economic zone covers 1.5 million square kilometres, with a $60 million tuna industry generating 2,000 jobs.  Calling on the global community to take stronger action to protect oceans, he called for such steps as drafting a binding agreement to combat the devastating impact of plastic pollution on fragile marine ecosystems.  As an ocean-locked State, Solomon Islands remains committed to negotiating a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction under the Convention on the Law of the Sea.  It also supports the International Law Commission’s ongoing work on the question of sea level rise and sovereignty.  Once national maritime zones are deposited with the United Nations, they should never be challenged, and rights must be respected irrespective of sea level rise, he said, anticipating the consideration of four continental shelf claims Solomon Islands submitted 12 years ago to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Highlighting other priorities, he said Solomon Islands became a party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty in 1985 and works with partners to ensure the region remains free from militarization.  In its transition phase of graduating from the least developing countries category by 2024, Solomon Islands has concluded several regional and bilateral trade agreements.  However, its graduation should be delayed, as the Government must analyse its pandemic-affected economy, he said, calling on partners to align support and priority programmes with the national development strategy.

Raising other concerns, he said Solomon Islands aligns itself with calls for the Security Council to adapt to today’s realities, with an expanded membership that includes a dedicated seat for small island developing States.  Having submitted its national universal periodic review report on human rights, Solomon Islands reiterates its commitment to strengthening measures, including establishing national reporting mechanisms.  On the domestic front, his country continues to work to protect the human rights of its most vulnerable populations.  Thanking Cuba for training doctors and health workers, he called for lifting the decades-long embargo.  Decolonization remains an ongoing issue, he said, emphasizing that the process of self-determination must continue in line with relevant United Nations resolutions.  The theme of the session comes at a critical time during a deadly pandemic, which will shape the world’s legacy as leaders, as the response will be remembered by billions who lost loved ones and who thought the world could have done better.  “There is more that binds us together than divides us, and we should embrace multilateralism as an important tool,” he said.

CHOGUEL KOKALLA MAÏGA, Prime Minister of Mali, stated that his own country and others in the Sahel are confronted by a hydra of terrorism, violent extremism, and instability.  COVID-19 had further negative impacts on the economy and on people’s living conditions, he added.  Noting that the country’s people place all their hopes in the ongoing political transition process, he said the Transitional Government includes representatives of the armed forces, as well as members of the movements signatory to the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali and representatives of the country’s political and social forces.  Despite the presence of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), however, the French Operation Barkhane, the European TAKUBA Force and the G5 Sahel Joint Force, Mali’s situation has not improved since March 2012, he noted.  “Entire sections of the national territory are beyond the control of the Government.”

Noting that his Government has established an Action Plan that makes security a “high priority”, he said Mali is also aiming for a security “paradigm shift” in the Sahel.  He recalled that Security Council resolution 2164 (2014) directs “MINUSMA to expand its presence in the north of the country beyond the main population centres and in areas where civilians are at risk”.  In the face of mass killings, the population feels that MINUSMA’s mission has “changed along the way”, especially since 2015, after the signing of the Peace Agreement, even though the challenges that justified its deployment have remained constant, he said.

Expressing concern about the sudden beginning of Operation Barkhane’s withdrawal, he emphasized:  “This decision did not consider the link between the United Nations, Mali and France.”  The new situation led Mali to explore ways to better ensure security, either autonomously or with other partners, to fill the security vacuum created by Operation Barkhane’s departure.

Against that backdrop, he called for a more robust mandate and a “change of posture” to give MINUSMA the means to properly carry out its tasks, while stressing that the Government is aware of its obligation to implement the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, including the accelerated disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme for 3,000 former combatants.  Furthermore, the Government intends to organize transparent and inclusive general elections to mark the return to constitutional order, he said, adding that the polls will be the “barometer of the success of the transition”.

PIETRO PAROLIN, Secretary of State of the Holy See, stated that, due to the pandemic, five years of progress on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals was halted, and in some cases reversed.  Sustainable development must always incorporate the poor, their gifts and creativity as agents of their own integral development.  The upcoming COP26 was an important opportunity for the international community to commit anew to the protection of the planet.  Describing the natural disasters in Haiti as a clear call to the international community, he urged leaders to work together in solidarity for a durable and sustainable development.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and the ongoing political tensions in Syria and Lebanon are a stark reminder of the impact that conflicts press upon peoples and nations, he continued.  Therefore, he added his support for a global ceasefire and for shared humanitarian responsibility.  Humanitarian and security issues require the world to end the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures towards nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and prohibition.  In that regard, the recent entry into force of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a major step forward.  Far too often humanitarian law has been taken as a recommendation rather than an obligation by both State and non-State actors alike.

To foster the resilience necessary to help the world emerge better from the various crises, the United Nations must constantly be renewed, he emphasized.  The need for a healthy politics based on the pursuit of the common good is particularly important at the Security Council, whose members are called to place international peace and rule of law above national interests or partisan ideologies.  However, far too often, the latter inevitably leads to gridlock, while the poorest and most vulnerable, who look to the Council for hope, continue to suffer.  Revitalizing the Organization must include examining whether the structure conceived in 1945 remains adequate for 2021 and beyond.  “Let us see in the eyes of migrants and refugees that they are full of suffering and hope.  Let us work together to give them a future to blossom in peace,” he said.

DEMEKE MEKONNEN HASSEN, Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, applauding scientists for tackling the COVID-19 vaccine challenge, said science can serve humanity only if good faith and rationality guide politics.  Unfortunately, Africa, with a negligible vaccination rate, is left waiting for the drips from the surplus of others due to vaccine nationalism.  In addition, the pandemic’s economic devastation in developing countries is yet to be addressed by meaningful economic and financial measures.  Citing other problems the world must address, he said poverty and dependence on foreign aid are causing political, governance, security and human development challenges.  As global warming is the most alarming driver of poverty, he said realizing targets under the 2030 Agenda is overdue, with COP26 hopefully paving the way for climate financing to restore ecosystems.

Ethiopia has always been steadfast in its support for multilateral institutions, he said.  However, there is a glaring need to reiterate that the fundamental values of sovereign-equality, non-interference and cooperation are based on mutual benefit and respect.  Multilateralism will meet its objective only if States are able and free to manage their domestic and external affairs.  In 2018, Ethiopia embarked on a reform programme, centred on human rights, dialogue and unity to harness the nation’s potential.  Alas, some groups are sowing anarchy, instigating violence and destruction, he said, recalling the November attack against the Ethiopian National Defence Force.  The Government responded, caught by surprise and unprepared, he said, raising concerns about dangerous narratives surrounding the situation.  Ceasefires, investigations and other responses have attempted to overcome a twisted propaganda campaign, he stated, adding that:  “At this stage, we are nearly convinced humanitarian assistance is a pretext for advancing political considerations.”

Despite this, Ethiopia will live up to its commitment to the country’s territorial integrity, he said, noting that attempts to support the situation requires a full understanding of it.  More broadly, the entire region is facing a disruptive trend, and supporting Ethiopia to overcome this criminal group is helping to sustain regional peace.  Dialogue has always been the preferred course of action, he said, committing to work with the African Union, which must be given space.  Indeed, the political and security landscape in Africa is on a path of adversity, he warned, pointing to the forcible overthrow of Governments, joint military exercises, aggression, renewed appetite for intervention in sovereign countries, subversion and mercenaryism and a renewed scramble for natural resources.  “Unless we swiftly change course, this will be yet another round to destabilize Africa and disenfranchise Africans in the determination of our destiny,” he said, expressing hope that there will be more countries to lift the banner of multilateralism rather than the vagaries of unilateralism.

Citing national gains, he pointed to the recent free, fair elections and advancement of the Grand Renaissance Dam.  However, the project has been politicized before global bodies and has been threatened.  The generational desire to use its natural resources will not be stopped by a colonial legacy and monopolistic cause.  For its part, Ethiopia will always be a beacon of freedom and symbol of peace.  As a nation that has never posed a threat to security of other States, Ethiopia will maintain its support to regional and global stability, he said, highlighting contributions to peacekeeping missions.

DOMINIQUE HASLER, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said that, when it comes to fighting the pandemic, international solidarity is a matter of self-interest.  However, 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still much uncertainty about where the world stands and how to be prepared for setbacks, she observed.  Although the scientific community has responded at impressive speed and developed effective vaccines in record time, the response has so far not been sufficient to provide universal access.

She went on to say that both climate change related catastrophes and the recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change are making it brutally clear that there is very little time left to reverse the downward spiral and meet obligations to future generations.  In that context, she pointed out that Liechtenstein leads the world on solar power per capita.

Environmental, social, and corporate governance have taken a key place in the discussion on policymaking as well as in the private sector, she went on to say.  Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking, one of Liechtenstein’s key Sustainable Development Goals projects, places a strong emphasis on the social and corporate governance dimension.  The initiative is a public-private partnership embedded in the United Nations system that places financial institutions at the heart of the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking.

Turning to ongoing global conflicts, she stressed that the prevalence of impunity not only leads to new atrocity crimes, but also makes sustainable peace and thus development impossible.  Justice may be a long time coming, especially for those in the most powerful positions, but justice is a key ingredient for any society to move forward with hope, legitimacy and the support both of its own people and of the international community.  The General Assembly must take responsibility and step forward in such situations and should convene in each case when the Security Council action has been blocked by a veto, she said.

VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, said the fight against COVID-19 is far from over, emphasizing that expanding access to vaccines by scaling up production and distribution must be the immediate priority.  Pledging that Singapore will continue to support the COVAX facility and donate vaccines to other countries with greater needs, he said that in the longer term, Member States must address major gaps in pandemic preparedness, strengthen multilateral support for the United Nations and WHO, and mobilize resources for collective security “because no one is safe until everyone is safe”.

For small island nations like Singapore, climate change is a clear and present danger, he noted.  “No country acting alone can move the needle,” he said, adding that by working together, the international community can make a substantial impact.  Outlining the steps Singapore is taking, he said they include planting 1 million trees, expanding the use of solar energy and reducing the waste sent to landfills.  Noting that the fortieth anniversary of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea will be an opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of Member States to that instrument, he said Singapore also looks forward to the next round of negotiations on a treaty on marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions and to the second Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

He said the pandemic has accelerated the pace and scale of the digital revolution, he said, empowering millions but also widening the gap between digital haves and have-nots.  Digital transformation should be about sustainable development, but without closing the digital divide, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved, he warned.  Clearly, the international community must discuss a global framework for digital transformation, he stressed, saying the conversation can focus on the Secretary-General’s proposal for a Global Digital Compact, a United Nations convention on digital transformation or a framework of norms and principles.

Right of Reply

The representative of Indonesia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, strongly rejected the statement made by her counterpart from Vanuatu, whose false claims are fuelling conflicts at the expense of innocent lives.  Vanuatu says it is concerned about human rights, but in reality it fails to mention acts of terror committed by armed separatist criminal groups, who have murdered health-care workers, teachers and law enforcement officers.  When innocent construction workers were brutally murdered and teachers were slayed and killed, she wondered why Vanuatu chose to be silent.  Vanuatu’s actions violate the principles of the United Nations Charter, she said, emphasizing that Indonesia upholds human rights, with all citizens being treated as equals.

For information media. Not an official record.