H.E. Mr. Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait,
H.E. Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As this is the first time for me to be back at the United Nations and address this Council, as former Secretary-General of the United Nations, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the President of the Security Council, H.E. Mr. Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, for inviting me to take part in this important meeting. I also commend the Government of Kuwait for its successful Presidency of the Security Council in the month of February.
The world we live in today is completely different from what it was seven decades ago, when the United Nations was founded.
While we have seemingly moved on from the era of large-scale war between States, today we face an increasing number of emerging global challenges. These include climate change, tens of millions of refugees, violent extremism, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation, to name just a few.
At the same time, the fourth industrial revolution represented by enormous technological advancements such as AI, nano-technology, and biological engineering, has brought dramatic changes to the shape and form of our daily lives. They will also have a significant impact on the security environment of the future world.
Under these dramatically changing circumstances of today’s world, some are questioning the role and effectiveness of the United Nations as a whole.
These critics, however, may also agree that without the United Nations, the international community could have never succeeded in preventing another world war in the past 70 plus years.
Furthermore, if it were not for the United Nations, the international community would not have been able to make significant gains on eradicating extreme poverty, promoting public health, and scaling-up access to education. Who else would have been able to provide legitimacy for the actions that the Security Council takes in addressing conflicts today?
The primary responsibilities vested in the Security Council to maintain international peace and security therefore are needed now more than ever.
In this regard, I value the Council’s improved working relations with the other interconnected pillars of the United Nations system and also its increased focus on the concept of “sustaining peace.” Addressing the root causes of conflict and working towards preventing conflicts before they escalate, alongside national and international stakeholders, will ultimately make the Council, and the Organization, stronger as a result.
In order to effectively respond to non-traditional and transnational security challenges such as climate change, terrorism and violent extremism, nuclear proliferation, and cross-border insecurity, the Security Council should undergo reforms to be more flexible in its decision-making process. Reform of the Security Council is long overdue.
We must also remind ourselves of the fact that the primary responsibility of preserving peace and security lies with Member States themselves.
The failure of some national leaders to fulfill their responsibilities to their own people significantly undermines the role of the United Nations in resolving conflicts. This can also lead to some Member States neglecting their responsibility to protect their own citizens while hiding behind the concepts of national ownership and state sovereignty.
Those political leaders often create dire political and economic instabilities where innocent civilians bear the bulk of the suffering.
We have learned by now that in order to hold such leaders accountable, the Security Council should not limit itself to simply calling for actions in rhetoric or statements. The Council must act on those situations.
Mr. President, having said this, I would like to touch on several international and regional conflicts.
In the Middle East and Africa, we must now be prepared for the post-ISIS era.
The Security Council must focus more on northern Syria, the ongoing civil war in Syria, tension in the Golan Heights, and the continuing Syrian IDP (Internally Displaced People) and refugee crisis. These issues could resurface, seriously threaten regional stability, and instigate further conflicts among states in the region.
Such instability could lead to exacerbating tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and bring Israel and Iran closer to direct conflict.
Violence between the Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and other regional threats could also have the potential to spin out of control as a result of deteriorating regional security.
Additionally, we cannot dismiss the possibility of ISIS, after losing its territories of terror in the Middle East, moving on to settle in vulnerable places such as Libya.
The division among GCC Member States is also of serious concern. In this regard, I highly commend the mediating role played by H.H. Sheik Jaber Ahmad Al-Jabed Al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait.
Exposure to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism is especially alarming in places like the Sahel region in Africa.
As extreme poverty, terrorism, the illicit arms trade, and human trafficking are all prevalent in a volatile cross-border environment; we must bolster our collective actions to address such vulnerabilities.
During my tenure as UN Secretary-General, I established the ‘United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel’ in June 2013 to address such issues. I am pleased to see that Secretary-General António Guterres, the Security Council, and the Peacebuilding Commission are working in triangular cooperation to advance this important effort.
Towards the end of my second term as Secretary-General, in April 2016, the Security Council and the General Assembly adopted twin resolutions on the Review of United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture. These resolutions expressed deep concern about the high human cost and suffering caused by armed conflict.
Today, not only international peace and security issues remain at a critical juncture, but multilateralism is at stake as well.
We must remember that multilateralism cannot be upheld by only one Member State or a group of states. The United Nations, especially the Security Council, must continue to endeavor to strengthen this driving ideal; overcoming whatever challenges may loom over the horizon.
I must emphasize in this regard that the entire United Nations membership should faithfully and thoroughly implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change while coping with other new challenges including, among others, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
In this connection, I believe, as Secretary-General Guterres has stated, that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is our most serious and imminent challenge at this time.
As we all know, the Korean Peninsula today is faced with serious challenges as a result of continued nuclear tests and long range ballistic missile launches conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
At the end of 2017, the DPRK announced its “completion of state nuclear force” and proclaimed itself as a “nuclear state.”
This is a serious threat to international peace and security and also a clear violation of all relevant Security Council resolutions and the NPT regime.
In fact, the Security Council has responded with tough measures, including increasingly stronger sanctions to deter the DPRK’s nuclear development. Six of the ten different resolutions adopted since its first nuclear test in 2006 were adopted in the past two years alone.
The firm and unified actions by the Security Council will be essential until the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and programs is realized.
In this regard, I urge the authorities of the DPRK to fully abide by the relevant Security Council resolutions. At the same time, I urge all the UN Member States to do their part to help resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through diplomatic efforts.
Only when we seek solutions to all these problems through peaceful means, can we uphold the principles and purposes enshrined in the UN Charter.
In this regard, the participation of North Korean athletes in the 23rd Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea has drawn much hope and expectations around the world.
I warmly welcome the recent resumption of inter-Korean dialogue and the resulting reconciliatory atmosphere between the two Koreas created before and during the Olympic Games.
We must keep alive this hard-won momentum for dialogue so that the narrow window of opportunity provided by this newly created momentum will be able to lead to a more meaningful and genuine dialogue process of reconciliation, peace and ultimate denuclearization of North Korea. The denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula would also help spur the establishment of wider peace and stability in Northeast Asia, thus creating a stage for greater regional development and prosperity.
This process also requires whole-hearted support of the United Nations and I count on the Security Council in moving the whole process towards this end. We need genuine and strong commitment of both South and North Korea to engage in dialogue supported by the US, China, Japan and Russia.
Current reconciliatory atmosphere must be nurtured by continuing engagement of both South and North Korean authorities. The United States can also play a crucially important role in engaging with North Korea as was suggested by President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea.
Distinguished Council Members,
Throughout my years as Secretary-General, I have witnessed the unique power of sports in contributing to peace and development in many places around the world. I am happy to have seen such positive energy once again in my country during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
In this regard, I would like to commend Mr. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, for his visionary leadership in facilitating the North Korean athletes’ participation in the Games, in particular the joint women’s ice-hockey team.
Once again, Mr. President, I would like to thank the President and the members of the Security Council and the Presidency of Kuwait for inviting me to address the Council. I look forward to an active exchange of thoughts and ideas during today’s debate.
Thank you. Shukran Jajilan.