Speakers in the General Assembly today discussed the best way to move the United Nations forward over the next 25 years as Member States work to revitalize the Organization and better equip its main organs to address pressing global challenges faster and more efficiently.
Debate centred on the Secretary-General’s landmark report Our Common Agenda, which provides a roadmap for translating the 12 points of the Declaration on the Commemoration of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the United Nations into concrete action and lays out the Secretary-General’s vision for global cooperation to expedite implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and other international agreements.
Delegates broadly supported the Secretary-General’s call for stronger multilateralism to create a more inclusive, equitable and resilient world. Some speakers called for universal access to COVID-19 vaccines and for policies that address the link between socioeconomic development and the climate crisis.
Costa Rica’s representative said now is the time to stand firm against the decay of ecosystems, international financial systems, democratic ideals and dangerously over-armed societies, stressing that the COVID-19 pandemic is not justification for multilateral inaction. “The pandemic does not excuse our abandonment of obligations to human rights, nor the weakening of our democratic norms, nor the fostering of hate speech or nationalist fervour,” she said.
India’s representative warned that if the international community pursues its current divisive path, it will move further away from its ability to recover from the pandemic. While expressing appreciation for the Secretary-General’s proposals, he said greater focus was needed on terrorism, as it remains the biggest threat to peace and security, as well as an obstacle to achieving a common agenda.
Indonesia’s representative said that “leave no one behind” should not just be a slogan but must be put into practice. On the impact of the pandemic on seafarers, he called on States and all stakeholders to support them, noting that Indonesia has committed to take concrete action and made ports available to facilitate the repatriation of crews.
Ethiopia’s representative noted that Our Common Agenda makes the case for addressing interconnected challenges through an interconnected response. It is time to renew the social contract and to put the needs of the most vulnerable at the centre of pandemic recovery efforts, he stressed. Calling upon regional organizations to continue to provide the support needed to implement programmes under the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa, he added that by doing so, they will be contributing to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The speaker for Morocco endorsed the call in the Secretary-General’s report for equitable and immediate access to vaccines through a global immunization plan. Echoing other speakers, she also reiterated Morocco's position in favour of reforming the Security Council and enlarging it to ensure fair representation for Africa.
The representative of the Russian Federation supported the Secretary-General’s basic thesis on strengthening multilateralism. However, he considered some parts of the report to be ambiguous and detached from the United Nations work. The focus on human rights and gender issues, in the context of international peace and security, is inappropriate. Climate and security are not necessarily inextricably linked, he said, adding that it is inadvisable to force countries to go beyond their Paris Agreement commitments.
In other matters, the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution submitted by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) titled “Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses on the United Nations” and contained in an eponymous report (document A/76/383). By its terms, the Assembly agreed that the failure of Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia to pay the full minimum amount necessary to avoid the application of Article 19 of the United Nations Charter was due to conditions beyond their control, and thus decided to permit these States to vote in the Assembly until the end of its seventy-sixth session.
Also speaking today were representatives of Malaysia, Cuba, Denmark, Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador, China, Argentina, Pakistan, Hungary, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the European Union.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 14 October, to elect members of the Human Rights Council; pay tribute to the memory of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of the Assembly’s twenty-ninth session; and consider requests to authorize the dates for meetings of subsidiary bodies, as well as the second session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction.
IMANE BENZIANE (Morocco) said that the Secretary-General report Our Common Agenda provides a fundamental roadmap for translating the 12 points of the Declaration on the Commemoration of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the United Nations into concrete action. Equitable and immediate access to vaccines through a global immunization plan, as mentioned in the report, is essential to help all countries, particularly African and least developed countries. Morocco will continue to contribute promptly to the discussions on the reform of the Security Council, the revitalization of the General Assembly and the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council. She reiterated Morocco's position in favour of reforming the Council and enlarging it to ensure increased representation for Africa, in line with the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration, which is the only viable option. A fair representation for Africa includes a minimum of two permanent seats, with all the prerogatives and privileges of permanent membership, including the right of veto. Morocco also supports the Arab Group’s demands for a permanent Arab seat in the Council, she said.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) expressed appreciation for the proposals, thoughts and visions contained in the Secretary-General’s report, adding that if the international community pursues its current divisive path, it will move further away from its ability to recover from the pandemic. Some areas in the report require greater focus, however, he said, noting that terrorism is dealt with only cursorily. Indeed, the word “terrorism” appears only twice, compared to more than 20 times for “climate change” and more than 70 for “climate”. Hopefully this can be remedied sooner rather than later, as terrorism remains the biggest threat to peace and security, as well as an obstacle to achieving a common agenda. Turning to climate change, he said that India is the only Group of 20 (G20) country that is on the path to meeting its Paris Agreement targets. Net zero must be a global net zero and a net minus from developed countries. These and other issues will surely be discussed more thoroughly during the Assembly’s current session, but Member States must remain the primary driver of agreed outcomes, he said.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia) said his Government supports the Secretary-General’s report and its use of effective multilateralism. Regarding climate action, Malaysia supports the report’s overarching goal of a sustainable future. The country’s twelfth national plan covers the years 2021-2025 and aims to create a prosperous and inclusive Malaysia to encourage people to shift to more sustainable lifestyles, environmental health and sustainable consumption. It notes the lack of coherence in global policies. Malaysia intends to become a carbon-neutral country by 2050. Regarding human rights and social protections, he said solidarity is needed to address the pandemic as is full, universal access to vaccines. His Government encourages greater participation of women, youth and civil society in decision-making. It also encourages more youth involvement in the political process and has reduced the voting age from 21 years old to 18 years old for general elections. Malaysia promotes the lifting of unilateral sanctions to safeguard global peace and urges countries to refrain from all provocative action that could spark conflict. To strengthen the United Nations, Member States must fulfil their financial obligations in full and on time, he said.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica) said that Our Common Agenda urges the international community to rebuild from current crises and move towards a more inclusive, equitable, and resilient world. Costa Rica will continue to do its part as an active member of the United Nations, the UN75 Leaders Network and the Alliance for Multilateralism, she said. The pandemic will likely continue as variants emerge in communities that have not been vaccinated. However, the pandemic is not responsible for the international community’s inaction and ineffectiveness. “The pandemic does not excuse our abandonment of obligations to human rights, nor the weakening of our democratic norms, nor the fostering of hate speech or nationalist fervour,” she said, adding: “COVID-19 is also not responsible for the conflicts we fail to resolve, for the resolutions we pass that have no teeth, for the warnings we hear but fail to heed”. Now is the time for action and to stand firm against the decay of ecosystems, international financial systems, democratic ideals, dangerously over-armed societies, and the waning vitality of the multilateral system, she stressed.
MARCEL PIEPER, representative of the European Union, speaking in his capacity as observer, said the bloc is still digesting the Secretary-General’s report, which it values as a tangible contribution to strengthening multilateralism with the United Nations at its core. The European Union shares the Secretary-General’s frank and dire analysis of the state of the world and the deficiencies of the global governance system, he said, adding that it looks forward to the Assembly’s informal meeting on 25 October to discuss with the Secretary-General the proposals contained in Our Common Agenda in more detail. The Assembly must also agree on a framework for following up on the report, he said, adding that the bloc favours a short and concise procedural resolution that would allow broad consultation with external stakeholders.
YUSNIER ROMERO PUENTES (Cuba) supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to strengthen multilateralism to meet the present challenges of the world. Many proposals for short-, medium- and long-term solutions are under consideration by Member States. New measures must be adopted. Cuba supports inter-governmental measures that can advance multilateralism, he said, also stressing the need for a stronger United Nations that can proceed on a solid foundation, which includes the efforts of all Member States. For its part, Cuba is dedicated to strengthening multilateralism and international law, he said.
MARTIN BILLE HERMANN (Denmark) also speaking on behalf of Fiji, Georgia, Singapore and Sweden, welcomed the fact that prior to the 25 October informal plenary meeting on Our Common Agenda, Member States will have had time to consider the report in depth. The international community must invest in action, considering the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report, which was commissioned by Member States, he stressed.
EVGENY Y. VARGANOV (Russian Federation) said that his delegation agrees with the Secretary-General’s basic thesis that multilateralism must be strengthened, leading to a more equitable, multipolar world order, at a time when divisions within the international community are growing. However, some parts of the report are ambiguous and detached from the United Nations work. The focus on human rights and gender issues, in the context of international peace and security, is inappropriate, and it is counterproductive to say that climate and security are inextricably connected. He added that the strength of the United Nations work lies in the division of labour between its principal organs. Confusing mandates will only lead to a duplication of work and diminish the Organization’s effectiveness. On climate change, he said that it is inadvisable to force countries to go beyond their Paris Agreement commitments, as trying to achieve climate targets with a single push could trigger serious energy imbalances. Turning to disarmament, he expressed concern about a lack of calls for compliance with existing agreements or the development of new agreements by consensus. The erosion of the current disarmament system is mainly due to deliberate actions by some States to undermine it, he said.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said the Secretary-General’s thoughtful report complied with the mandate given him and shows a broad range of consultations in its creation. The report aims to create a United Nations that is relevant for the next 25 years. Member States must carefully consider these proposals and determine how they can be implemented within national priorities and mandates. Stressing the need to avoid a pick-and-choose mentality, which has taken hold over in the past five years, he expressed disappointment with how the report tackled the issue of development. The Seventy-fifth Anniversary Declaration promised to leave no one behind. While not minimizing the importance of addressing climate change, the concept of sustainable development has gone backward. The international community cannot revert to a situation where climate is dealt with separate from social and economic development. Regarding the pandemic, he agreed with proposals to prepare and prevent future crises, and to address the unequal access to vaccines and medical equipment and supplies. The issue of what is a common public good must be treated with some caution. Security Council reform was a priority of the last 25 years and is now a priority for the next 25 years, he said, stressing it is an issue that must be addressed.
Ms. ANDJONGO (Cameroon) stressed the need for a reformed and development-oriented United Nations. In this context, Our Common Agenda is a programme that requires action. She advocated for an international and inclusive system, having as its cornerstone a credible, audible and legitimate United Nations system, in which Africa must have its place, especially within the Security Council. Only in this way will the international community be able to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure the survival of the planet, she said.
YOSEPH KASSAYE (Ethiopia) said that Africans know they have primary responsibility for their own economic and social development, but their efforts must be supported by an enabling international economic environment and global cooperation. While the Government of Ethiopia has put industrialization at the heart of its Ten-Year Development Plan, manufacturing’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) remains below five per cent, a situation that resonates with other African countries. Much therefore remains to be done to bring about structural transformation, and improve productivity and competitiveness. Ethiopia calls upon regional organizations, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to continue to provide the support needed to implement programmes under the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa, he said, adding that by doing so, they will be contributing to Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals. Commenting on Our Common Agenda, he said that it makes the case to address interconnected challenges through an interconnected response. It is time to renew the social contract and to put the needs of the most vulnerable at the centre of pandemic recovery efforts, he stressed.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) said his Government appreciates the work of the Secretary-General in compiling his report. There must be a balance for sustainable development, and the protection of biodiversity and oceans is very important. Ecuador supports the upcoming deliberations for a common agenda. In Ecuador’s view, the Secretary-General’s outlook is pessimistic. It ignores some issues that are the basis for Our Common Agenda, such as international justice and rule of law, he said, stressing that the international agenda of peace and development, and human rights is very important for the United Nations. Civil society, academia and the private sector should be able to weigh in on deliberations, as the international community seeks to build global solidarity and confidence in new global partnerships. There are 12 areas of action set by the Secretary-General. These are not just a call for attention, but lay out a practical response to create a common agenda. Ecuador is committed to continue in this essential work.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia) said that his country has put in place systemic reforms to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. “Leave no one behind” should not just be a slogan, but must be put into practice, he stated. The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change are a compass in this regard. Indonesia will work toward this end as a member of the Economic and Social Council and during its presidency of the G20 next year. On the impact of the pandemic on seafarers, he called on States and all stakeholders to support them. For its part, Indonesia has committed to take concrete action. For example, ports have been made available to facilitate the repatriation of crews, and the country intends to continue its support to the seafarers, he explained.
JIANG HUA (China), noting her country’s readiness to engage in in-depth consideration of the Secretary-General’s report with all parties, stressed the need to take a balanced approach to development, security and human rights. Hopefully, the Organization will focus on salient issues and inject new momentum towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Member States must be in the driver’s seat, with the United Nations priorities reflecting both their needs and their ownership of the Organization. Going forward, the United Nations should promote mutual respect and win-win cooperation between countries, she said, adding that follow-up and implementation of Our Common Agenda must be based on a gradual approach that includes consultation and consensus-building.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) said this is an opportunity for Member States to renew their commitment to the United Nations Charter and assess current global challenges, such as indebtedness, climate change and the pandemics of COVID-19 and hunger. It will serve as a critical element in future discussions. Argentina strongly supports any debate that will help strengthen the United Nations and develop a more inclusive scenario that will leave no one behind. Her Government will contribute to the regional and international strategies that will lead to sustainable development and study the report closely, as each issue identified in the document requires comprehensive analysis. This is not an isolated document, but one ready to be studied in conjunction with relevant documents already in the system. The common agenda is a roadmap for the United Nations in coming years, she said, stressing the process can only be led by Member States in the Assembly.
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan) recalling that one of the principles of the Charter is non-interference in the internal affairs of States, noted that State sovereignty is the basis of the international order. He therefore called for open multilateralism. All members of the General Assembly must be involved in the process of selecting non-governmental organizations to take part in the body's work. Referring to a proposal made by the Secretary-General in Our Common Agenda, he considered it problematic to change the nature of the Trusteeship Council. He stressed that this body was created to accompany the decolonization of certain peoples, a task that remains unfinished. Its transformation into a multilateral body would require a change in the United Nations Charter, he said.
BÁLINT MOGYORÓSI (Hungary), associating himself with the European Union, said that his country is convinced that there is no need for global central governance. All States have the right to define their own migration policies, protect their borders and pursue criminal networks that exploit people on the move. Moreover, promoting migration does not address the social, economic and environmental problems in countries of origin. He reiterated Hungary’s position on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and its rejection of its inclusion in other documents.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) said this is a debate on the road forward and the key commitments set out in the report. The world has changed since the United Nations was created. It is now up to Member States to take actions on the points laid out in the report. Multilateralism is needed to build a more sustainable world. It is essential to revitalize the Assembly to preserve the importance of the general debate, she said, adding that limiting the number of high-level events held alongside the general debate, can enhance the success of the week during which the general debate is held. A multilateral system is not possible unless there is a more transparent Security Council that is more representative. The pandemic has demonstrated it is essential to promote inclusivity in the reform process, she said, underscoring that El Salvador remains willing to continue in these debates and produce substantive results, that will help modernize the United Nations and deliver global common goods.
JASSER JIMÉNEZ (Nicaragua) agreed with the need to strengthen multilateralism and international cooperation, which are essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the most urgent challenge being the eradication of poverty. He noted that the Secretary General's broad, complex report, Our Common Agenda, contains concepts that have not yet been widely discussed by Member States. As a result, his delegation intends to provide more detailed opinions on the report during the 25 October meeting.
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution “Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations: requests under Article 19 of the Charter,” contained in a report submitted by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) (document A/76/383).
By its terms, the Assembly — agreeing that the failure of the Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia to pay the full minimum amount of their assessments necessary to avoid the application of Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations was due to conditions beyond their control — would decide that those three Member States shall be permitted to vote in the Assembly until the end of its current seventy-sixth session.
It then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.