24 SEPTEMBER 2021
SEVENTY-SIXTH SESSION, 12TH & 13TH MEETINGS (AM & PM)
Focus on Syrian, Palestinian Refugees, Aid for Afghans, South Sudanese
World leaders appealed to the United Nations to facilitate resolutions to long-standing disputes, human displacement and climate disaster as the General Assembly continued its general debate today.
Underscoring the economic, social and security impact of regional conflicts and the influx of displaced Syrian refugees on his country, Lebanese President Michel Aoun urged the international community to ensure a safe return of the displaced and rejected the idea of their integration in Lebanon. Likewise, he rejected “any form of settlement of the Palestinian refugees” and called for “finding a solution to the Palestinian issue in accordance with international resolutions, which guarantee the right of return.” Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas echoed that call, urging the Secretary-General to take the necessary steps towards developing an international mechanism for the protection of the Palestinian people and to activate that mechanism.
However, some leaders pointed to the Organization’s weaknesses in the face of the myriad of global challenges, with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades declaring: “Selfish interests hinder the founding principles of the United Nations, in which humanity has vested its hopes for a prosperous and peaceful future.” Recalling that his own country still endures the consequences of a “blatant violation of the fundamental principles of the United Nations”, he said a compromise becomes very difficult to reach when new ideas put forward at the request of the Secretary-General to move the process forward are rejected.
Climate change is another issue that requires more comprehensive global action, many leaders stressed. Mia Amor Mottley, President of Barbados, wondered how much global temperature rise there must be before countries end the burning of fossil fuels, or how much more must sea levels climb in small island developing States before those who profited from the stockpiling of greenhouse gases contribute to the loss and damage that they occasioned, rather than ask others to crowd out the fiscal space they have for development. “The answer is that we are waiting for urgent, global, moral strategic leadership,” she said. Political will must be summoned to confront what must be confronted, she said, asking who will stand up in the name of those who have died during the pandemic, or because of the climate crisis, or on behalf of the small island developing States who need 1.5°C to survive as countries prepare for COP26.
Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, Vice-President of South Sudan, said climate change has affected some 800,000 people across the country in addition to torrential rains having triggered the worst flooding in 60 years, submerging villages, towns and livestock. While South Sudan contributes more than its fair share to climate security, it remains among nations suffering the worst climate consequences. Partnerships are critical, from providing humanitarian assistance to help in nation-building. Indeed, South Sudan’s independence could not have been won without support from friends, allies and partners around the world, she said, assuring them that the nation is determined never to go back to war. “We must make the Revitalized Peace Agreement succeed, and we can only do that with the support of our regional and international partners,” she said. “Simply stated, South Sudan desires and is ready to turn a new page.”
Echoing other world leaders’ concerns about the current situation in Afghanistan, Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, urged the Secretary-General to move the international community to swiftly deliver humanitarian assistance. Emphasizing that the United States was wrong to try to force a military solution in Afghanistan, he said if the world wonders why the Taliban are back in power, it has only to analyse why a well-equipped Afghan army gave up without a fight. The international community must now strengthen and stabilize the current Government for the sake of Afghanistan’s people. Incentivizing the Taliban to fulfil promises on human rights, inclusive Government, amnesty and denying a safe haven to terrorists will be a win-win situation for everyone, he said.
Also speaking today were Heads of State and Heads of Government of Nigeria, Senegal, Germany, Slovenia, Paraguay, Gambia, Benin, Armenia, Mauritius, Sweden, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Greece, Japan, Malta, Ireland, Albania, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Luxembourg, Georgia, Australia, Kuwait, Serbia, Denmark, Jamaica, Belize, Belgium and Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as the European Union.
The representatives of India and Pakistan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Saturday, 25 September, to resume its general debate.
NICOS ANASTASIADES, President of Cyprus, said that the collective and shared failure to decisively tackle global challenges, had “let down and disappointed many people across the world, whose fundamental human rights and dignity were not adequately protected”. “Selfish interests hinder the founding principles of the United Nations, in which humanity has vested its hopes for a prosperous and peaceful future,” he stated, noting that the only way forward was through multilateralism, tangible solidarity and stronger partnerships. In this context, he expressed his country’s “unwavering support” to the reform of the United Nations that would give real hope to those in need of international protection, collective security, peace and development.
Recalling that his country still endures the consequences of a “blatant violation of the fundamental principles of the United Nations”, he challenged Turkey’s statements about “exhausted efforts for a compromise” and calls for a settlement based on the so-called “realities on the ground”. Detailing “the true realities on the ground”, he went on to warn that “Turkey’s end game is not to solve the Cyprus problem, but to turn Cyprus into its protectorate”. Pointing to the Conference on Cyprus at Crans Montana, he blamed “Turkey’s inflexible stance and insistence on maintaining the anachronistic Treaty of Guarantee, the right of intervention and a permanent presence of troops” for the unsuccessful outcome of the negotiations. With that in mind, he stated that a compromise was not possible because “one side deviates from the United Nations framework or annuls agreements reached and aspires to a different form of settlement, contrary to the agreed basis”.
A compromise becomes even more difficult to reach when new ideas ‑ put forward at the request of the Secretary-General to move the process forward ‑ are rejected, he said, highlighting his proposals for the decentralization of powers and establishment of a parliamentary system with a ceremonial Head of State and rotating Prime Minister, among others. For its part, Cyprus is determined to set the negotiation process back on track based on the United Nations framework and the agreement reached in Berlin on 25 November 2019. The only way forward is “a settlement that will equally benefit all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, fully respecting their human rights and contributing to the peace and stability of the region,” he declared.
On climate change, he cited a regional action plan, consisting of two components: a scientific and an intergovernmental one. Taking note of the recent events in Afghanistan, he declared: “We share a collective responsibility to uphold international humanitarian law, particularly as regards the protection of women and minorities.” “We also need to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorism and extremism, or a breeding ground for organized crime, weapons and drug trafficking and renewed waves of illegal migration,” he added. As a strong proponent of stability and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean and the greater Middle East, Cyprus strives to actively promote an enhanced network of regional cooperation.
MUHAMMADU BUHARI, President of Nigeria, thanked the United States, Turkey, India, China and the European Union, as well as the international community for their work on the COVAX Facility, however he called for a more equitable distribution of vaccines to all countries.
Turning to other issues including the illicit trade, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons in Africa, he urged the world to enforce the Arms Trade Treaty. Pointing to the erosion of democratic gains, he fully supported the efforts from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and stressed that countries should adhere to their Constitutional provisions on term limits to avoid fueling tensions in the region. He went on to say that terrorism remains a major threat to the world’s security and Nigeria has spared no efforts to fight Boko Haram and that it will continue to do so with the support of United Nations counter-terrorism bodies.
Deploring illicit financial flows, he asserted that the return of illicitly acquired assets was a priority in the context of COVID-19 recovery. He invited the international community to support the recommendations for systemic reforms made by the High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda. He indicated that Nigeria would advocate for a global coordination mechanism at the Economic and Social Council to “systematically monitor illicit financial flows and strengthen financial integrity for sustainable development”.
Noting that developing countries faced unsustainable debt burdens, he praised the ongoing initiatives from international institutions and the Group of 20 (G20) to mitigate the economic impact. He requested that the Debt Service Suspension Initiative be expanded to all developing countries facing fiscal and liquidity challenges and for a review of the eligibility criteria for debt suspension including outright cancellation for countries facing the most severe difficulties. He underscored that fair and equitable trade would be critical to eradicating the need for aid. He called for a reform agenda that will accelerate economic recovery, build resilience and pursue transformative development strategies to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.
On human rights, he called for collective global action through a treaty to end all forms of violence against women and girls. He went on to say that the recent adoption of the resolution on the establishment of the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent was a step in the right direction. He urged the international community to accelerate the reform of the Security Council referring to the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration. He concluded by encouraging “Israel and Palestine to re-engage in a dialogue based on relevant United Nations resolutions and initiatives”. The two-State solution has the support of the international community and is widely considered as a solution to lasting peace.
MICHEL AOUN, President of Lebanon, recalling the Beirut Port blast, expressed his gratitude to the Secretary-General, Heads of State and France, in particular, for their support in the aftermath of this catastrophe. Pointing to the recent political crisis, he stated that his country embarked on the path of recovery after having formed the Government, which is committed to carry out financial and economic reforms, fight corruption and lay down a financial recovery plan. He emphasized that Lebanon would rely on the international community’s support to revitalize its economy and create jobs, as well as to recover “smuggled funds”.
Underscoring the economic, social and security impact of regional conflicts and the influx of displaced Syrian refugees on his country, he urged the international community to ensure a safe return of the displayed and rejected the idea of their integration in Lebanon. Likewise, he rejected “any form of settlement of the Palestinian refugees” and called for “finding a solution to the Palestinian issue in accordance with international resolutions, which guarantee the right of return”. Moreover, Lebanon demands resumption of indirect negotiations on the demarcation of the southern maritime borders in line with the international laws.
Turning to the pandemic, he said the repercussions of the crisis hit hardest the country’s economy and health sector, which suffered from a shortage of medical supplies, fuel and health-care professionals. However, Lebanon has vaccinated 30 per cent of its population and seeks to surpass a goal of 40 per cent by year’s end.
Following the Beirut Port blast, he said, the capital “continues to be quiet and dark”, while the need remains pressing for the reconstruction and development supplies. “The international solidarity with our capital and our people is commendable,” he said, calling for the international assistance with the investigation of the blast. “We, therefore, repeat our request to the States, which possess information and data that can help the investigation, to share it,” he said.
Going forward, he called on the States to sign the establishment convention of the Academy for Human Encounters and Dialogue. Setting up the Academy has been delayed due to the past crisis, and construction work is to be initiated soon. He further noted that the theme of this year’s General Assembly — Building Resilience Through Hope — is a daily motto of the Lebanese people, who rely on international solidarity on their way to recovery.
MACKY SALL, President of Senegal, noting that terrorist groups in the Sahel wage attacks and engage in deadly lootings, advocated for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to be vested with a strong mandate. There is also a crucial need for the G5 Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) to receive support in their fight against terrorism. “We cannot allow Africa to become the safe haven for international terrorism,” he emphasized. He went on to reiterate the call for Palestinians to enjoy their right to a viable State coexisting in peace along secure and recognized borders.
Turning to COVID-19, he said Senegal has engaged in transparent management of the pandemic, publishing a daily report and deployed an economic and $2 billion social resilience programme. It has significantly expanded medical resources, provided free tests and care and given free vaccines. He applauded the surge of support from the COVAX initiative. There is a divide between vaccinated countries in the North and non-vaccinated ones in the South, he said, one that continues to widen. “The each man for himself mentality will not end the pandemic,” he clarified. Only a global response, facilitating access for all to vaccines, will lead to an end of the global scourge.
He said the new deal for Africa derives from an outcome of the 18 May summit in Paris on financing for African economies. The first goal was achieved to allocate $650 billion of special drawing rights. Africa was able to receive $33 billion in order to shore up health-related resilience, partly mitigating the impact of the crisis, and launching economic recovery. “This is a significant step forward,” he said. Yet, Africa needs additional financing of at least $252 billon by 2025, necessary to mitigate the fallout and shore up recovery. The second goal is to reallocate $67 billion mobilized on the special drawing rights shares of wealthy countries to achieve the agreed upon $100 billion threshold. In this way, States can solidify the basis of a “New Deal for Africa” for reformed governance. This will be possible only if the relationship structures rely on partnership, rather than official development assistance (ODA).
The Africa of aspirations needs access to adequate, concessional and mixed resources, he continued, in the form of loans to finance vital sectors for its economic growth: infrastructure, energy, agriculture and industry, as well as water, sanitation, education, health and training. A new deal with Africa should help to vanquish deterministic mindsets that have hampered the continent’s ability to secure those resources. He called on partners to relax Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rules in order harness Africa’s investment potential. Likewise, he called for reforming the United Nations, stressing that it is “high time” for the Security Council to reflect the realities of the twenty-first century United Nations. He reaffirmed Senegal’s commitment to the shared African position, set out in the Ezulwini document, and underscored the need to care for the planet on the basis of shared but differentiated responsibility.
Under Senegal’s national contribution, he said the country will pursue efforts towards energy transition and the goal of more than 30 per cent of installed power capacity being renewable energy. This will be shored up with a solar electrification project underway for 1,000 villages. Thanks to the gas to power strategy seeking to achieve 100 per cent of clean energy, however it cannot achieve an energy season without a viable, fair and equitable alternative. Natural gas use should be maintained. An end to financing for the gas sector ‑ under the pretext it is a fossil fuel, but not accounting that it is exponentially clean energy ‑ would represent a major obstacle for the country’s energy transition.
FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, President of Germany, called on the world to learn the lessons from the failure in Afghanistan, which contained three messages for foreign policy: be more honest, be smarter and be stronger. In this regard, he called on States to extend their diplomatic, military, civilian and humanitarian approaches to find potential solutions and common ground for all.
Turing to increased military expenditures during these uncertain times, he emphasized that “military strength without the will to forge understanding, without the courage to engage in diplomacy, does not make the world more peaceful,” stressing Germany’s bid for a seat on the Security Council for the 2027-2028 term. “We failed on many things in Afghanistan. But, our failure should not be cause for schadenfreude for others,” he continued, calling on the major Powers — the United States, China and the Russian Federation — to shoulder a particular responsibility.
He went on to urge European countries, including Germany, to do more for their own security and continue their multilateral efforts in Libya, eastern Ukraine and the Middle East, and called on Iran to return to serious negotiations regarding the renewal of the nuclear agreement. Europe needs a strong common foreign and security policy, he said, in order to seek cooperation with China and demand Beijing respects human rights and international law, as well as the legitimate interests of its neighbours.
On COVID-19, he noted that Europe is contributing one in three COVAX vaccine doses, and as the world’s second-largest donor, Germany would contribute at least another 100 million additional doses by the end of 2021.
Recalling the devastating floods in western Germany this summer which killed almost 200 people, he further stressed the existential threat of climate change, calling on States to make strong decisions together at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) and to close the wide gap between ambitious goals and concrete policies.
BORUT PAHOR, President of Slovenia, said solutions to such global challenges as COVID-19, climate change and peace can only be found by working together to seize a historical opportunity to steer change in a direction beneficial for all. In combating COVID-19, science has proven its decisive role as the world faces the greatest test in global solidarity in generations, he said, paying respect to the new life-saving heroes, including health-care workers. The world must also take action to address climate change and listen to scientists and experts when shaping decisions. Committed to the objective of a climate‑neutral European Union by 2050, he said Slovenia supports taking swift action in light of alarming findings in the recent International Panel on Climate Change report and looks forward to the forthcoming United Nations conference in Glasgow.
A much-needed green transition should go hand in hand with digital transformation, he said, adding that nations must use reform and investments to achieve climate neutrality. Competition for increasingly scarce water resources and the imminent water crisis is an opportunity to rethink innovation, governance and collaboration at all levels. Climate change also affects food security. For the first time in history, global warming is the sole cause of a famine, occurring in Madagascar. While countries like Slovenia are contributing to World Food Programme (WFP) efforts around the world, fighting famine must go beyond humanitarian aid and must accelerate transitions to sustainable and resilient food systems.
The responsible use of new and emerging technologies can help tackle modern challenges, he continued. New technologies offer numerous opportunities to mitigate climate change, support sustainable agriculture, introduce smarter mobility, offer better education and improve the effective use of resources, he explained, noting that Slovenia launched, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence in March in Ljubljana. The pandemic has only increased dependence on digital space, while at the same time revealing that platform’s vulnerabilities to the spread of hate speech, he said, reiterating that fundamental freedoms apply both online and offline.
Turning to peace and security, he said dependence on digital space has revealed a vulnerability to threats and cyberattacks. To enable peace and security in all domains, collective and more effective plans must respond to different crises, which currently exceed the capacities of individual States to react. The interconnected and interdependent nature of peace and security, sustainable development and human rights is more evident than ever before. The pandemic has worsened the situation of most vulnerable members of society, with shrinking spaces for the freedom of expression. The full realization of human rights for all has proven to be key to resilience and must be an integral part of recovery efforts. The situation in Afghanistan has exposed the fragility of the world’s human rights system. In this vein, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s call for action on human rights.
Following the atrocities of the Second World War, he said, the global community has built an international system codified by international law to promote dialogue and the peaceful settlement of disputes. All nations must work on actively ensuring respect for the principles of international law and for strengthening justice, he said, emphasizing that: “This is about effective multilateralism, which Slovenia is passionately advocating for; this is the United Nations finest achievement. Once again, let us work together.”
MARIO ABDO BENÍTEZ, President of Paraguay, said the pandemic inspired solidarity, but also revealed uncomfortable realities. Equitable distribution of the vaccine continues to be an issue, he stressed, reporting that Paraguay was made to wait for its share of doses regardless of agreements and payments made within the COVAX structure. In that context, he expressed disappointment in the response of the multilateral system to ensure equitable access to the vaccines, which are being used as a political and ideological tool.
Turning to the economy, he noted that Paraguay, as a landlocked developing country, is dependent on the world for food. For post-pandemic recovery, it will be vital for Paraguay to be able to export its own products in other countries, he said. Meanwhile, his Government is working to transform Paraguay’s geographic location into an advantage and promote physical integration throughout the region. Indeed, integration and sustainable development are at the heart of the Paraguay’s economy.
Climate change is linked to the water crisis affecting his region, he continued. Low water levels are compromising drinking supplies and negatively affecting navigation which further hampers international trade and energy generation. In that context, it is important that all countries honour their Paris Agreement commitments, particularly as they pertain to providing support for vulnerable developing countries.
He went on to emphasize that terrorism and organized crime are real threats to international community. Paraguay, for its part, has updated its legal frameworks to improve capacity and bolster international cooperation on that front. Furthermore, the use of children, kidnapping and extortion is inhumane, and Paraguay is working to ensure the return of nationals kidnapped by those organized crime groups. Highlighting the importance of the United Nations role in buttressing democracy around the world, he stressed that the General Assembly’s agenda should be enhanced and the Security Council reformed.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the State of Palestine, recalled that many of his people carry deeds and keys to the houses from which they were uprooted 73 years ago. Meanwhile Israel, in defiance of international law and United Nations resolutions, enacts laws and holds court hearings to displace Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in Jerusalem unlawfully and forcibly, which can only be characterized under international law as ethnic cleansing. “The crimes and aggressive policies of the Israeli occupying Power against our people, land and holy sites will not thwart our people’s struggle to achieve their freedom and independence on their land. This colonial regime it has established on our land will disappear, regardless of how long it takes,” he said.
There are still some countries that refuse to acknowledge the reality that Israel is an occupying Power, only serving to embolden it to reject and violate United Nations resolutions, he said. As for internal Palestinian unity, he reiterated that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people. In that context, he stressed that his Government did not cancel presidential elections, but postponed them as they could not be held in Jerusalem.
He went on to highlight the constructive dialogue currently under way with the United States Administration to resume Palestinian-American relations and take steps that will ensure the occupying Power’s abidance of signed agreements. However, the current and former Israeli Governments have persisted in evading the two-State solution, and pursued occupation and military control over the Palestinian people while presenting illusionary economic and security plans as an alternative. The leaders of Israel no longer feel any shame while stating their blunt opposition to this solution that is supported by global consensus, he stressed.
In that context, he called upon the Secretary-General to take the necessary steps towards developing an international mechanism for protection and to activate that mechanism. Furthermore, he called on the Secretary-General to convene an international peace conference, in line with the internationally recognized terms of reference and United Nations resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, and under the sole auspices of the international Quartet.
Israel has one year to withdraw from the Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, he declared, adding that his Government is ready to work throughout 2021 on the delineation of borders and solving all final status issues in accordance with United Nations resolutions. If this is not achieved, why maintain recognition of Israel based on the 1967 borders, he wondered. “This is our land, our Jerusalem, our Palestinian identity, and we shall defend it until the occupier leaves, as the future belongs to us, and you cannot claim peace and security for yourselves alone. Let us be.”
CHARLES MICHEL, President of the European Council of the European Union, said humans have tortured the planet and committed acts of war against the environment. For decades, scientists have sounded the alarm. The pandemic meanwhile has opened our eyes to the reality that humans are inextricably linked to nature. “It is time to sign a peace treaty with our planet,” he said, and to transform the world as the previous generation did after the last world war. Inspired by these principles, they left an international rules-based order and championed a development model based on the freedom to trade and ensure prosperity. These choices ushered in greater stability.
“We are indeed at an inflection point,” he said, calling for a world that is fairer and safer, one where cooperation reigns over confrontation, solidarity over isolation and transparency over secrecy. He called for supporting the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, noting that the European Union has exported 700 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, invested €3 billion in COVAX and mobilized €1 billion to develop pharmaceutical production capacities in African countries. He called for preventing the next pandemic and shoring up global resilience, adding that the European Union has proposed an international treaty against pandemics.
On climate issues, he called the Paris Agreement a milestone, with the European Union paving the way by committing to climate neutrality by 2050, and a further push to do so by 2030. It is important to move towards a carbon tax, he said, noting that the European Union has an emissions exchange system that stimulates innovation and generates results. He called for investments to “green” the economy. Noting that industrialized countries must shoulder their responsibility to help developing nations, he recalled that, from 2013 to 2019, the European Union disbursed €127 billion — one third of the total. He went on to stress that women are being raped “because they are women” — a weapon of war used particularly in the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia.
He called for an immediate end to ethnic violence, and for unobstructed access to humanitarian assistance. He went on to describe the European Union’s provision of development assistance to the Sahel, calling the new situation in Afghanistan “a failure for the international community”. In the Indo-Pacific, the European Union is among the most important trade partners, with 40 per cent of its trade transiting the region. It is currently forging a new alliance with Africa. Expressing support for all efforts to promote education, he said the European Union, a leading sponsor of peace, is financing one quarter of the United Nations regular budget, 30 per cent of the peacekeeping budget and half of development assistance. It aligns with the United Nations vision of an open, connected world. The uptick in violence in the Middle East calls for peaceful dialogue towards a two-State solution between Israel and Palestine, he added.
ISATOU TOURAY, Vice-President of the Gambia, said the world’s current challenges require building resilience, recovering from COVID-19 and creating sustainability in response to the people and planet’s needs, necessitating a revitalized United Nations. Africa is grappling with the negative effects of conflict and insecurity, and greater global solidarity and United Nations leadership is required to address the root causes. Conflict remains a major obstacle to development, she said, calling on the international community to act coherently and adopt new approaches that suit today’s demands with a view to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, including the “Silencing the Guns” initiative. Offering other suggestions, she said partners should adopt a conflict-sensitive lens to development programming, including approaches prioritizing transformation and sustainability to help African countries in their post-pandemic recovery and long-term development.
She voiced deep concerns about challenges surrounding COVID-19 vaccine access and equity, abject poverty, youth unemployment and the crushing debt crisis. Building back better from COVID-19, reviving the momentum towards realizing the 2030 Agenda and addressing ongoing development challenges requires extraordinary international engagement and solidarity, and delays in tackling these issues would have devastating consequences on African nations’ economies. Calling for a new strategic orientation and partnership to accelerate post-pandemic recovery, she said initiatives should, among other things, focus on job creation, digitalization and scientific research. Global recovery will only be achieved when vaccine equity, availability and accessibility are adequately addressed for all nations, she said.
COVID-19 has challenged the world to mobilize all efforts to eradicate poverty and inequalities through collective action with a renewed momentum towards achieving the 2030 Agenda, she said, calling on partners to increase funding to help the United Nations development system work. The pandemic disrupted economies and employment, resulting in negative-3.4 per cent drop in Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. The Gambia reviewed its national development plan and is redefining strategic priorities. Many least developed countries face significant pandemic-triggered economic consequences, she said, adding that the international community must recalibrate and commit to actions that support a resilient recovery. Governments must be equipped with tools and adequate resources to finance development priorities. At the same time, collective security continues to be tested, in Mali and other nations, she said, noting the Gambia’s troop contributions to peacekeeping operations. Right now, the Gambia is at a crossroads, seeking national reconciliation and consolidating the rule of law as it prepares for presidential elections in December.
Developments within the international community continue to be a matter of concern to the Gambia, she said, pointing to stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar and the decades-long United States embargo against Cuba. Her country is strongly committed to the principle of recognizing only one China. Well aware of the geopolitical competition for influence by regional and global Powers, she said the Gambia, like other small States, is more interested in seeing the influencers cooperating in fighting poverty, climate change, conflicts and global insecurity. “We want to see a world of shared prosperity and innovation; we share a planet, and we owe it to posterity to leave it in a better shape,” she said. “Let us eliminate this pandemic together and build forward better by leaving no one behind.”
One of the pandemic’s biggest lessons is that the world’s institutions are not fit for purpose, she said. This must engender critical reforms of these institutions so the world is better prepared for the next pandemic, climate event or humanitarian catastrophe. United Nations reform is essential, she said, expressing support for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) efforts to adapt in ways that are mitigating the pandemic’s impact on developing countries. One of the last holdouts for reform is the Security Council, alongside Africa’s quest for greater representation, which is legitimate, just and overdue. “We will not relent until our demands are met. We want to have a greater voice in deciding issues that affect us,” she said, calling on States to support these demands based on the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.
MARIAM CHABI TALATA, Vice-President of Benin, recognized the United Nations, and in particular the World Health Organization (WHO), for prioritizing the search for a definitive solution to the global and destructive health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The development of a COVID-19 vaccine was achieved through international collaboration. Despite sizeable immunization rates around the world, she reminded the Assembly that Africa still has a low vaccination rate and it continues to suffer from other deadly diseases, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. She underlined the initiatives taken by her Government to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, including vaccinations for all citizens and subsidies to people and companies impacted the pandemic. She thanked international partners who supported Benin’s action programme to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The international community must prepare for future pandemics, she said, stressing: “Isolated, one-off, local actions alone are no longer sufficient,” and common and concerted action is needed. Regarding insecurity due to violent extremism and banditry, she indicated that terrorism in the north and piracy in the south are serious threats to her country. To address this, Benin is committed to continue collaborating with regional and international partners to ensure peace, security and free movement within its territory. She underlined that the same collaborative approach should be followed to address climate change.
Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals is the safest way to deliver on human rights, she said. In this regard, Benin has adopted different strategies, such as ensuring adequate food through school feeding programmes; providing quality life‑long education and health care, including for the most disadvantaged; and bolstering the water distribution system, electricity network and clean energy. The successful issuance of Eurobonds has provided Benin with enough resources to achieve most of the Sustainable Development Goals. Noting the country’s progress with individual rights, she said Benin has applied to become a member of the Human Rights Council during the 2022-2024 term. Its candidacy has already been formally endorsed by the African Union and she invited other nations to follow suit.
She called for a revitalization of the United Nations by adapting the institution to the modern world. Listing several regional crises, she reiterated Benin’s support for the creation of a Palestinian State coexisting peacefully with Israel. She endorsed the United Nations efforts to find a lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara and she reaffirmed Benin’s alignment with the resolution on the economic embargo between the United States and Cuba adopted in February during the African Union’s thirty-fourth summit. The normalization of relations between the two countries should be pursued, she concluded.
REBECCA NYANDENG DE MABIOR, Vice-President of South Sudan, acknowledged that, although her country’s independence was the product of the struggle and sacrifices of its people, it could not have been won without the political and material support from friends, allies and partners around the world. In that context, she assured international partners that South Sudan is determined never to go back to war. The failure of her country to fulfil the promises of the struggle is due to reasons that South Sudanese and partners must cooperate on to find practical solutions.
She went on to recall that, at the time of its independence, the international community pledged to help build the capacity of South Sudan, in all areas of nation-building. As a result, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was created to help establish the foundations of the new nation. However, after the outbreak of war, that vision was abandoned, and priority was placed on protecting civilians and providing humanitarian assistance. That is unfortunate, as building capacities enables a State to govern responsibly and effectively. However, there must also be guards against the unintended consequence of dependency on humanitarian assistance.
On climate change, she stressed that it has impacted the lives of some 800,000 people across South Sudan. In addition, torrential rains have resulted in the worst flooding in 60 years and have submerged villages, towns and livestock. While South Sudan contributes more than its fair share to climate security, it is a country that suffers the worst effects of a changing climate, she emphasized, urging the international community to help save the lives of more than 5.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
While she acknowledged an urgent need to form a unified professional army under one command and control, she emphasized that security sector reform is the most challenging part of the Revitalized Agreement as it contains elements at the centre of the violent conflicts in the country. As for Juba’s relations with Khartoum, she said they have improved. However, the contested area of Abyei remains an issue of contention. The Abyei Protocol clearly states the basis for resolving this issue, but disagreements over its implementation persist. Nevertheless, she declared: “We must make the Revitalized Peace Agreement succeed, and we can only do that with the support of our regional and international partners. Simply stated, South Sudan desires and is ready to turn a new page.”
NIKOL PASHINYAN, Prime Minister of Armenia, presented his Government’s proposals on the solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Recalling 44 days of war which killed thousands of people in the fall of 2020, he pointed out that the aggression was accompanied by numerous gross violations of international law by the Azerbaijani armed forces.
He went on to note that a trilateral ceasefire statement was signed on 9 November 2020, with peacekeeping forces of the Russian Federation deployed in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. His Government also set out in its 2021-2026 action plan the goal of opening an era of peaceful development, in order to overcome the hostility in the region through dialogue. However, violations of the ceasefire, along with aggressive and insulting statements against Armenia and its people continue to escalate hostilities, he said.
Contrary to article 8 of the 9 November 2020 ceasefire statement, Azerbaijan still holds and has sentenced many Armenian captives to years of imprisonment on trumped-up charges, with evidence also indicating incidents of killing and torture, he continued. Another example of the deepening of hostilities was that of the opening of a so-called trophy park in Baku, where Azerbaijani school children were taken on excursions to watch the mannequins of captured, killed or bleeding Armenian soldiers. It was extremely important to open regional communications and to build interconnected transport arteries of the region, he stressed.
He called for the completion of the process of returning prisoners of war, hostages and other captives without delay. It was also necessary to resume the peace process for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs. Recalling the incident when Azerbaijan armed forces infiltrated the Sotk-Khoznavar section of its territory in May, he suggested that both the Armenia and Azerbaijan armed forces should withdraw simultaneously from that section to the Soviet times border. International observers would be deployed along that border and delimitation and demarcation would then begin under international auspices.
PRAVIND KUMAR JUGNAUTH, Prime Minister of Mauritius, said the pandemic caught the world “totally unprepared” with unparalleled intensity, disrupting Governments and societies, the multilateral system and human lives and livelihoods. “Almost two years later, we are still grappling with the pandemic and its mutations,” he said, noting that just as many countries found challenges in providing basic protective equipment at the start of the pandemic, they now face similar challenges in accessing affordable and effective vaccines. Meanwhile, advanced economies have been able to deploy massive fiscal stimulus to cushion the pandemic’s impact and have succeeded in achieving mass vaccinations, while developing countries remain constrained in their responses, and the virus continues to mutate.
Welcoming the United States initiative to organize a Leaders’ Summit on those issues, he called for more vaccines to be produced more rapidly and for their decentralization. Multilateral facilities, such as COVAX, should be fully funded and empowered to redistribute surplus vaccine doses, and the necessary technology and resources should be shared with developing countries, including small island developing States, such as Mauritius. In the same vein, unilateral economic sanctions should be reviewed in light of the humanitarian urgency to fight the pandemic. Noting that his country’s GDP contracted by 14.9 per cent in 2020, he said that, at the same time, spending on public health and other critical sectors had to be significantly scaled up.
All that came against the backdrop of already‑high levels of debt distress and environmental challenges facing the world’s small island developing States, he said. While welcoming the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative, he stressed that it should be extended to include all small island developing States, as well as middle-income countries. “A new global financial architecture focusing on fiscal space and debt sustainability is urgently needed for [small island developing States],” he said. On the climate crisis, he emphasized that the world has great expectations of the Glasgow conference. It is not sufficient to simply raise ambitions, but also to deliver on them.
Emphasizing that the protection and promotion of human rights and gender equality should remain at the centre of the international community’s endeavours, he went on to note that misinformation and criminal activities in cyberspace have flourished during the pandemic and must be addressed globally. Mauritius supports the elaboration of the international Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes. He voiced concern about rising incidents of terrorism and the resurgence of violent extremism in Africa, expressed his country’s solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and called for a just and lasting settlement for the Palestinian people. In addition, he voiced his hope that the process of reforming the Security Council — making it more representative of the world’s new realities — will be accelerated, and called for the lawful completion of the decolonization of the Chagos Archipelago in line with the ruling of the International Court of Justice.
STEFAN LÖFVEN, Prime Minister of Sweden, said today’s challenges demonstrate the urgent need to strengthen international cooperation, with a modern United Nations at its core. Noting that more than half of the world’s population has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, he pointed out that Sweden supports vaccine equality and is the largest per capita contributor to the COVAX Facility. Turning to the extreme weather events being seen all over the planet ‑ including forest fires, flooding and heat waves — he said they underscore the urgent need to act against climate change, transform societies and keep the 1.5°C goal alive. “Recovering from the pandemic will provide an opportunity to build back greener,” he said, adding that lower emissions, adaptation and the protection of biodiversity must be top priorities.
He said 2022 will mark 50 years since the world gathered in Stockholm for the first ever United Nations conference on the environment. Sweden will host “Stockholm+50”, which is expected to be a catalyst for necessary transformative actions and systemic change. Calling for a renewed commitment to strengthening international cooperation and upholding international law, he emphasized that human rights are universal and apply to all. Sweden remains deeply concerned that respect for democracy continues to decrease globally, and will continue to support democratic institutions and processes, as well as their defenders. The country’s “Drive for Democracy” initiative aims to push back against authoritarianism and promote democracy worldwide.
Describing his Government as a feminist one, he went on to express concern that the pandemic exacerbated critical gaps in gender equality, with women and girls disproportionally affected. “Sustainable development, peace and security are not possible when women and girls are left behind,” he stressed, spotlighting Sweden’s steadfast support for sexual and reproductive health and rights. The country supports free, fair and sustainable trade; fair labour rights; peacebuilding efforts; humanitarian assistance to countries in need; and the rights of women, girls and minorities in Afghanistan. Sweden also leads international efforts to mobilize additional funding for Yemen ‑ the world’s largest humanitarian emergency ‑ and advocates for a ceasefire and political resolution in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Turning to developments in the European neighbourhood, he recalled that peaceful protests in Belarus a year ago were followed by ruthless repression. Sweden along with the European Union support the Belarusian people’s right to democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law. It also remains a steadfast supporter of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, and continues to unequivocally denounce the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. As Sweden chairs OSCE in 2021, its guiding principle is to “return to the basics” by defending the European security order, based on respect for international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Strengthening OSCE’s cooperation with the United Nations is a top priority, not least on the ground in conflict situations, he said.
MIA AMOR MOTTLEY, Prime Minister of Barbados, said “the needle has not moved” since 2019, when she took the podium for the first time. In that interim, she did not see sufficient action on behalf of the world’s people. She asked how many more COVID-19 variants must arrive before a global vaccination plan was implemented, how many deaths must it take before the 1.7 billion excess vaccines in the possession of advanced countries were shared with those who lacked access, or how much fake news was going to be allowed to spread without defense of the public space.
She went on to say that she wondered how much global temperature rise must there be before countries ended the burning of fossil fuels, or how much more must sea levels climb in small island developing States before those who profited from the stockpiling of greenhouse gasses contributed to the loss and damage that they occasioned. “The answer is that we are waiting for urgent, global, moral strategic leadership,” she said.
She asked how much wealthier the top five tech firms ‑ whose current market capitalization tops $9.3 trillion — must become before people worried that so few had access to data and knowledge or that children were being deprived of the tools they needed to participate in online education. The world has the means to provide every child on the planet a tablet, to give every adult a vaccine and to protect each person from a changing climate. “But we choose not to,” she said. “We do not have the will to distribute that which we have.” And the faceless few do not fear the consequences.
The current age dangerously resembled that of a century ago, she stressed, on the eve of the Great Depression, after the world had fought a pandemic and when fascism, populism and nationalism led to the decimation of populations through actions too horrendous to contemplate. Unless this fire is controlled, “it will burn us all down”, she warned. Political will must be summoned to confront what must be confronted, she said, asking who will stand up in the name of those who have died during the pandemic, or because of the climate crisis, or on behalf of the small island developing States who need 1.5°C to survive as countries prepare for COP26.
“If we can find the will to send a person to the moon — and solve male baldness — we can solve simple problems like letting our people eat at affordable prices and making sure we have the transport,” she insisted. This was not 1945. It was 2021 with many countries that did not exist all those years ago, but which must now answer to their people. “Our voices must matter,” she said. At this dangerous fork in the road, Member States must indicate in what direction they want the world to advance, she stressed, calling for support for a plenary resolution endorsing the approach of Secretary-General António Guterres.
SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, paid tribute to all the front‑line workers for their dedicated service and sacrifice during the pandemic, noting that her country — an avowed supporter of multilateralism — wishes to see the United Nations as a source of hope and inspiration during this critical time. “We must set aside our differences and rise as one harnessing our collective strength to build back a better world for all.” In this spirit, she said her country advocates for vaccine equality, resolution of the Rohingya crisis, climate justice and stands against any form of injustice against the Palestinian people. Against that backdrop, she detailed significant social and economic achievements of her country, which led to Bangladesh being ranked among the five fastest‑growing economies in the world. The Sustainable Development Report 2021 identified Bangladesh as having progressed the most since 2015. Such progress was due to heavy investment in women’s advancement and empowerment.
A strong health-care system and a timely adoption of a multi-pronged, multi‑stakeholder approach made the impact of COVID-19 “much less than feared” and allowed it to keep the economy afloat and supporting the most vulnerable, she continued. A well-timed intervention and the people’s resilience helped Bangladesh achieve over 5 per cent economic growth in 2020. However, she stressed that, for a COVID-free world, the international community cannot leave millions behind and called for universal and affordable access to vaccines. She went on to underscore a need for a global plan to prioritize education in the post-pandemic recovery and for the fair treatment of migrants, many of whom were on the front lines of the pandemic. The unprecedented challenges by the pandemic put at risk graduation prospects for many least developed countries, who will need motivation to continue their path.
Pointing to the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable countries, she called upon the rich and industrialized countries “to cut emissions, compensate for the loss and damage, and ensure adequate financing and technology transfer for adaptation”. As countries prepare for the Glasgow conference, she cited her country’s Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan — Decade 2030 outlining a transformative agenda from climate vulnerability to prosperity.
Drawing attention to the recent political developments in Myanmar, she called on the international community to find a durable solution to this crisis “through a safe, sustainable and dignified return of the Rohingyas to their home in the Rakhine State”. “Peace remains a pre-eminent focus of our foreign policy,” she said, underlining that the people of Afghanistan should decide the course of their future themselves. As a proponent of the flagship resolution on the Culture of Peace and a leading peacekeeping nation, Bangladesh remains deeply committed to creating a peaceful society and maintains a “zero‑tolerance policy” towards terrorism and violent extremism.
MARK RUTTE, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, focusing on three critical developments ‑ COVID-19, climate change and the situation in Afghanistan — appealed to States to not “give in to cynicism and fatalism”. He called for global solidarity and the ensuring that the COVID-19 vaccine be shared fairly across the globe. To that end, his country has contributed €147 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) ACT Accelerator and is planning to donate over 20 million vaccines via COVAX by the end of 2021. Spotlighting the impact of the pandemic on young people, women and girls he noted that his country has become the second-largest donor, after Norway, to the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to bolster countries’ socioeconomic resilience.
Pointing to the extreme weather and devastating natural disasters experienced by many countries, including the Netherlands, he reiterated the importance of climate action, particularly that of climate adaptation. His country hosted the online Climate Adaptation Summit which saw the launch of the Adaptation Action Agenda, he noted, adding that the Netherlands also spent nearly 70 per cent of its public climate finance on adaptation.
Turning to the situation in Afghanistan, he urged States not to abandon millions of Afghans in need of urgent humanitarian aid and whose rights were being trampled, especially women, girls and minorities. His country worked hard in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. In that time, 25 Dutch military personnel sacrificed their lives. Progress had been made in the country: child mortality fell by 60 per cent, more girls and women gained access to education and life expectancy rose by 16 years. “We must be mindful of the Taliban’s track record,” he continued, adding that whatever happened, his country would continue working to push developments in Afghanistan in the right direction.
More so, it was also crucial to continue to defend the international legal order and universal human rights around the world, he stressed. To that end, he called on all countries to fully cooperate with the investigation on the downing of Flight MH17. At this time, family members of the victims were getting the opportunity to share their stories in court, he said, noting that one said they would never be able to come to terms with their loss as long as those responsible refused to accept responsibility. He appealed to all countries to cooperate fully with the investigation, in line with Security Council resolution 2166 (2014) so that justice is served and accountability ensured.
KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, Prime Minister of Greece, declared that the European Union led the way on vaccine procurement, purchasing and distributing doses to all member States based on their population, regardless of size or economic might. Moreover, the bloc agreed last July on an unprecedented European Union-wide fiscal stimulus package that is now driving a sustained economic recovery across the continent.
Turning to climate matters, he observed that the Mediterranean ecosystem is particularly susceptible to the consequences of rising temperatures. That was on display last summer when unprecedented wildfires ravaged Greece. In that context, Greece, alongside leaders of eight other Mediterranean countries, made the climate crisis the focal point of the annual European Union Mediterranean summit in Athens, known as EUMed 9. Furthermore, there will be $24 billion of European and national funds invested to support the green transition. Greece is addressing the issue of plastics pollution on land and at sea and is implementing ambitious plans to accelerate the use of green energy in its most sensitive ecosystems.
As for the increasing complexity of international relations, he recalled that, since 1995, Greece has been facing a formal, regularly renewed and clearly illegal threat of the use of force by Turkey. Greece is a global maritime Power and is fully committed to the law of the sea, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, he stressed. In that context, Turkey should understand that its aggressive attitude undermines prospects for a mutually beneficial relationship, and jeopardizes regional security and stability, he stressed.
The climate crisis and the threat of illegal migration, where Turkey has an important role to play in cooperating with Greece to eradicate the networks of illegal smugglers, demonstrate that there is much the two countries can do together. “We are bound by history and geography to coexist.”
Turning to other security matters, he emphasized that a European Defence Union would only serve to strengthen the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Moreover, it would oblige European countries to address issues of interoperability and meagre defense budgets. It would also accelerate cooperation on cyberspace. “If Europe is to be not just an economic but a geopolitical powerhouse, it is time for this debate to start in earnest.”
SUGA YOSHIHIDE, Prime Minister of Japan, called for the creation of an environment in which all countries and regions can secure COVID-19 vaccines equitably, with no political or economic conditions. He announced that, through additional contributions, Japan will provide a total of 60 million doses through the COVAX facilities and other initiatives. Going forward, the world needs to build resilient health systems, drawing lessons from the pandemic and preparing for the future. There should be no geographical vacuum when addressing global health issues, with information and knowledge shared freely and transparently, he said, emphasizing the important role of the World Health Organization.
Climate change is a challenge that requires collective efforts to resolve, he said, and addressing that problem will drive growth and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Japan is aiming to cut its emissions by 50 per cent and it encourages other countries, including major emitters, to do more as well. Emphasizing the importance of a free and open international order based on the rule of law, he said that Japan will collaborate closely with like-minded countries and regions to fulfil the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific area. It will also help the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and others to realize a free, fair and secure cyberspace.
He called for the start of negotiations to reform the Security Council in a way that reflects twenty-first century realities. All countries must also make sincere and transparent efforts regarding arms control and disarmament. Japan, the only country to experience the devastation cause by atomic bombs, will aim to achieve a meaningful outcome at next year’s Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Afghanistan must be prevented from becoming a safe haven for terrorists again, he continued, adding that humanitarian assistance must be delivered safely, and human rights, especially those of women, protected. The Taliban’s actions will be carefully monitored to see if they will honour their commitments. Turning to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said that its recent launch of ballistic missiles violates Security Council resolutions. Hopefully, its dialogue with the United States on denuclearization will move forward. For its part, Japan will continue to seek a normalization of relations with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea through the resolution of outstanding issues, including abductions and the nuclear issue, “as well as settling the unfortunate past”. He went on to say that Japan strongly supports ASEAN’s efforts regarding Myanmar.
ROBERT ABELA, Prime Minister of Malta, citing World Bank data, said that for the first time in 20 years, and amid the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in poverty worldwide. Bringing the global poverty rate to below 3 per cent by 2030 will be impossible without swift, significant and targeted policies. “We cannot afford to respond to the devastating effects of COVID-19 merely by limiting ourselves to rhetoric,” he said. Vaccines must be fairly distributed to those who need them, he said, noting that Malta has donated 70,000 doses to Libya and intends to provide even more. He emphasized the importance of a fair and inclusive recovery from the pandemic, with debt guarantees, financial aid and loans from international financial institutions to revitalize economic activity. Existing trade and investment rules must be properly implemented and new rules must be negotiated to address emerging issues, he said.
A successful United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow is critical to achieve the world’s long-term climate objectives, he continued. Despite the pandemic, Malta’s ambitious decarbonization programme remains in place. As one of the European Union member States most vulnerable to climate change, Malta advocates a focus on adaptation, and if elected to the Security Council for the term 2023-2024, it will stress the need to bridge the gap between science and global security. As a founding member of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, Malta aims to be a leader in small-island governance, ready to share its decarbonization and digitalization plans with others, he said.
Turning to human rights, he expressed concern about reports of increased violence against women throughout the world, adding: “Our systems must be strengthened to prevent the proliferation of this scourge.” Women must be given space to become enablers for change. Libya’s future must remain at the forefront of the international peace and security agenda, with the international community — led by the United Nations — ensuring a successful political transition there. The situation in the Sahel requires an integrated approach, driven by strong political commitment. He drew attention to the efforts Malta has made over the past 20 months to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. He urged the international community to redouble efforts to bring peace to Syria and emphasized the key role that United Nations peacekeeping operations must play to protect children in armed conflict.
MICHEÁL MARTIN, Taoiseach of Ireland, said that the people of the world were looking to the Assembly to act and lead in the face of climate change, the pandemic and deepening global inequality. Global challenges must be addressed with a strong, effective and fair multilateral system. “Vaccine equity is a moral test for our global community,” he said, describing the rapid establishment of the COVAX facility and the ACT Accelerator as multilateralism at its best. The World Health Organization should remain at the heart of the global response to the pandemic, but it must have the political and financial support it needs to do its job. COVID-19 caught the world off-guard, but had more progress been made on the Sustainable Development Goals, societies would have been more resilient and better prepared, and lives would have been spared.
Discussing Ireland’s work as a Security Council member, he said that too often that organ was divided, with the most vulnerable suffering the consequences. All Council members must set aside political differences and work to uphold the promise of saving future generations from the scourge of war, he said, citing Syria as an example when the Council, in the face of immense suffering, chose inaction. He added that Member States must stand firm and united behind the Secretary-General’s call for a negotiated ceasefire, unimpeded humanitarian access and restoration of basic services in Tigray.
He underscored his country’s firm commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons, noting that the Council will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty next week. He also welcomed the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and encouraged all parties to comply with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran must seize the opportunity created by the United States’ return to that agreement, resume talks in Vienna and cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
However, he voiced his deep frustration at the Council’s inability to speak throughout the latest outbreak of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians. A comprehensive, just and lasting peace was possible through the two-State solution, but young Palestinians and Israelis were losing hope that peace could be achieved. “As leaders, we must act now,” he said, calling on the international community to renew efforts for a just and lasting outcome, including through a reinvigorated Quartet.
On Afghanistan, he said that Member States can and must agree that the rights of Afghan women and girls were non-negotiable, stressing: “Our role and responsibility is to stand with them”. He acknowledged that not all Council members were of one mind on climate and security, but expressed hope that by working together, the 15-member organ could reach a shared understanding of how to meet that challenge.
EDI RAMA, Prime Minister of Albania, said vaccination, masks, hygiene and physical distancing are the weapons with which to fight COVID-19. Half of Albania’s population is now vaccinated, with all citizens expected to be immunized in 10 months’ time. Albania supports the establishment of a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response that would bring countries together, dispel the temptation of isolationism and nationalism, and address challenges to peace, prosperity, health and security.
Having successfully chaired the OSCE in 2020, Albania will as a Security Council member for the term 2022-2023 bring to the table the perspective of a small country, with a constructive foreign policy that is not in conflict with any other State. Its pledge to host a large contingent of Afghan refugees reflects its long history of tolerance, coexistence and openness to other cultures. He echoed calls for the universalization of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and its early entry into force, alongside all other non-proliferation and disarmament instruments.
Albania recognizes the serious threat posed by the outflow of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria and Iraq, and it is working with others not only to repatriate their family members but also to ensure that their responsibilities are legally dealt with, he continued. The Government recently implemented a plan to receive Albanians returning from conflict zones and it believes that rehabilitation, reintegration and deradicalization are key. On climate change, he said that Albania plans to submit, during the Glasgow climate conference, a revised commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 as per the Paris Agreement.
Noting the European Council’s decision in March 2020 to open European Union accession talks with Albania, he said that the countries of the Western Balkans have entered a new phase of cooperation and are working to establish a regional common market based on freedom of movement, people, services and capital. He reiterated his 2019 invitation to those Member States which have not yet done so to join the other 117 countries which recognize Kosovo as independent. By doing so, they will acknowledge the new realities in the Balkans and correct the errors of history. Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, which Albania supports, would lead to a legally binding agreement between Pristina and Belgrade, their mutual recognition, Kosovo’s membership in the United Nations and European Union, and fair treatment of Kosovo’s minorities, he said.
JACINDA ARDERN, Prime Minister of New Zealand, describing her country as “remote, but connected”, said the pandemic has shown how decisions half a world away can be as significant as those taken by neighbours close by. COVID-19 is a global problem that requires a global solution, including equitable access to vaccines. New Zealand is working with Australia and others to support full vaccine coverage for Pacific island States. It is also working at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a waiver of intellectual property rights for vaccines. “The pandemic has been the ultimate disrupter,” but within that disruption, lies an opportunity to be in a better position to tackle common challenges, she said.
“The climate crisis cannot be beaten through incrementalism,” she said, emphasizing that any response that fails to limit global warming to 1.5°C is unacceptable. Summarizing her country’s efforts, including the planting of 1 billion trees by 2028, she said that collective global action must include an end to fossil fuel subsidies and seeking ways to grow more food without creating more emissions.
Underscoring the grave consequences of rising sea levels on small island developing States, she said that the international community must ensure the maintenance of their maritime zones and their rights under the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Nor can the 2030 Agenda be achieved without reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, she said, calling for the next Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to adopt an ambitious and transformational global biodiversity framework. New Zealand also looks forward to concluding negotiations on a United Nations treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of high seas biodiversity, she added.
Trade must be more open and inclusive, she said, noting how the pandemic illustrated the importance of open trade for lifting people out of hunger and poverty. “We must commit to ensuring the flow of essential goods and services and reject any temptation to turn inwards and focus on protectionism,” she said. Ensuring no impunity for the use of illegal weapons, or the illegal use of legal weapons, is a shared responsibility that must run alongside efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. She went on to say that New Zealand will not only support the recommendations of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response but also engage actively towards a pandemic treaty, convention or other international instrument that can improve global health surveillance and strengthen WHO.
JAMES MARAPE, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, pointed out that small island States are being exposed to the global threats of sea-level rise due to climate change. “It is time the big carbon emitters of planet earth own up and apologize to the small island States and all other victims of climate change,” he stated, adding that people are living in fear and uncertainty about the future. “Enough of talk. We have to take actions commensurate to the volume of emissions from our industries,” he said, calling on the big-emitter nations to lead the global effort towards environmental equilibrium. Papua New Guinea, home to 13 per cent of the world’s rainforests, wants to preserve this “great carbon sink”. The carbon removal capacity from the forests is over 100 million tons per year with energy emissions around 10 million annually, he explained. If the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism delivers as it should, his country can remain where every country needs to be by 2050 under the Paris Agreement — a net remover of carbon from the atmosphere. The international community must commit to the energy targets, deal with land use, advocate for the preservation of biodiversity and be bolder in climate financing commitments.
As a natural gas and oil exporter, Papua New Guinea is working to minimize its carbon footprint, implementing Sustainable Development Goal 13, he said. It was one of the first countries to submit the nationally determined contributions in 2020 outlining the goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. However, despite multiple project submissions for climate financing, his country has had limited or no success in accessing these funds, except for technical assistance in developing the fiduciary framework. “We need to see a more practical demonstration of genuine commitments,” he stated. Furthermore, he called on the Member States to finalize robust and fair carbon markets under the Paris Rulebook, to unlock new financing streams that better account for the sustainable development interests of countries like Papua New Guinea.
Turning to COVID-19, he said that while the number of both confirmed cases and fatalities in Papua New Guinea is low, so are vaccination rates. Enactment of the National Pandemic Act 2020, coupled with support from development partners like Australia, New Zealand, United States, Japan, China, European Union, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, enabled his country to immediately access essential medical equipment and vaccines, he said, encouraging strengthening of cooperative global efforts to allow access to COVID-19 vaccines in countries where they are most needed.
His Government aims to achieve a fine balance between meeting all COVID-19 requirements and ensuring an open, functioning economy, he said, highlighting a focus on substantive investment in and development of quality economic infrastructure to link the country’s provinces and enhance their socioeconomic opportunities. While the petroleum, energy and mining sectors contribute some 60 per cent of GDP, his Administration has prioritized investment in the agriculture sector as an “engine of prosperity”. He highlighted the importance of transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable sources such as hydro, solar, wind and geothermal energy. With a maritime zone spanning over 2.4 million square kilometres, implementing the Ocean Action Agenda is of utmost importance for his country, he said, calling on countries in the region to abstain from unregulated, unreported and illegal fishing.
Turning to the Bougainville peace process, he underlined the United Nations fundamental role in supporting sustainable development and peacebuilding. Constructive dialogue, mutual understanding and partnership are crucial for a lasting political settlement of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. Human rights and cultural dignities must always be maintained. His Government has prioritized gender equality and empowerment opportunities and is setting quotas for women’s representation in Parliament. Concluding, he called on the General Assembly to do better in delivering on Security Council reform. A consolidated document is needed now for real negotiations to pave the way in that regard.
XAVIER BETTEL, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, said that thanks to the devotion and ingenuity of scientists, researchers and health-care personnel working on the pandemic, leaders were meeting in New York, which is once again the capital of diplomacy and action this week. However, the world is not returning to pre-COVID conditions anytime soon, with 4.5 million dead, 124 million plunged into extreme poverty and 1.8 billion school-hours lost. Hope is the theme of the session, but “hope should inspire us to act and respond, as the time for blah-blah is over,” he said.
The pandemic has forced difficult choices and on-the-job learning, he said, but Luxembourg has reached a 75 per cent vaccination rate. While more than 6 billion doses have been administered worldwide, 11 billion are needed to surpass the 70 per cent threshold and thereby end the most acute phase of the pandemic. With access unequal, Luxembourg donated €2 million to the COVAX facility in 2020 and 2021, and in July, decided to share 350,000 doses with partner developing countries in Africa and Asia, with a first batch of 56,000 delivered to Cabo Verde on 13 September. He noted the country has also sent ventilators to India, Nepal and Tunisia, and refrigerators for vaccine storage to Laos, Burkina Faso, Sudan and Senegal.
Despite the historic Paris Agreement, on the current trajectory, temperatures will rise 2.7ºC by end of century, despite the goal that they be limited to 1.5ºC compared to pre-industrial levels. Calling on the European Union to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030, he noted Luxembourg has doubled use of renewable energy in 5 years and will double financing to €200 million, above and beyond official development assistance (ODA) of at least 1 per cent of GDP. COP26 in Glasgow will be “a moment of truth”, he said, as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports over 1 billion children are exposed to climate shocks.
Citing the wars and conflicts that have led to unconscionable crimes in Afghanistan, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Yemen and elsewhere, he said Luxembourg has submitted its candidacy to serve on Human Rights Council in 2022-2024. The country will support the rule of law, civic space and defenders of human rights, prioritizing a human rights-based approach to sustainable development and climate action. Luxembourg is committed to the self-determination of women and girls, the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and the rights of children. Stressing that human rights include the rights of migrants and refugees, he urged the international community to remember those forced to flee Afghanistan, as the world cannot abandon partners there and must not let them down. His delegation is prepared to help reshape the United Nations to play its pivotal role and make the Security Council more accountable.
IMRAN KHAN, Prime Minister of Pakistan, called for a comprehensive international strategy to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic downturn and the climate emergency. It must include vaccinating everyone, everywhere; adequate financing for developing countries, including debt restructuring and more official development assistance; and clear investment strategies to alleviate poverty, create jobs and bridge the digital divide. He proposed that the Secretary-General convene a summit in 2025 to review and accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
He added that the gap between rich and poor countries is growing at an alarming speed. “What the East India Company did to India, the crooked ruling elites are doing to the developing world,” he said. The Assembly must take meaningful steps to address this morally repugnant situation and develop a legal framework to stop and reverse illicit financial flows. At the very least, the recommendations of the High Level Panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity should be fully implemented, he said.
The Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy should focus on new threats of terrorism posed by Islamophobes and right-wing extremists, he said. He should also convene a global dialogue on countering the rise of Islamophobia alongside efforts to promote interfaith harmony. “The worst and most pervasive form of Islamophobia now rules India,” where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bharatiya Janata Party regime is getting away with human rights abuses with complete impunity. Pakistan desires peace with India, as it does with other countries, but sustainable peace in South Asia is contingent upon resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people, he said.
Turning to Afghanistan, he rejected suggestions, made by politicians in the United States and Europe, that Pakistan is to blame. The United States was wrong to try to force a military solution in Afghanistan and if the world needs to know why the Taliban are back in power, it has only to analyse why a well-equipped Afghan army gave up without a fight. Going forward, the international community must strengthen and stabilize the current Government for the sake of Afghanistan’s people. It will be a win-win situation for everyone if the world community incentivizes the Taliban to walk the talk and fulfil their promises on human rights, inclusive government, amnesty and denying safe haven to terrorists. This is a critical time for Afghanistan and humanitarian assistance must be delivered immediately, he said, urging the Secretary-General to move the international community in that direction.
IRAKLI GARIBASHVILI, Prime Minister of Georgia, said his country has always adjusted to meet new challenges. Calling for unity as the world continues its efforts to build back better from the pandemic, he said Georgia’s development plans are harmonized with the 2030 Agenda, including initiatives to accelerate environmental sustainability, protect the rights of all people, promote greater economic fairness and resilience, and support a revitalized United Nations. Noting that the country’s economy is on the mend after having sustained setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said its contributions to international security — despite being a small nation — have been “outsized”.
Citing one example, he said Georgia recently provided a transportation and logistics hub for thousands of evacuees from Afghanistan, facilitating over 60 flights, and accepted workers from Afghanistan-based non-governmental and other organizations to work temporarily in Georgia. “Our goal has always been to do what we can to support common action to advance the common good,” he said, drawing attention to Georgia’s goal of achieving European and Euro-Atlantic integration through membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Pledging to press forward with reforms and modernization of every aspect of Georgia’s democracy and economy, he outlined its strong protection of human rights and its six consecutive democratic elections.
However, he cautioned that democracies around the world are under attack from “irrational and dark forces”, often aided and abetted by outside saboteurs. Urging countries to fight back through free and fair elections, he went on to outline Georgia’s dedication to investing domestically in education, infrastructure, eradicating poverty, strengthening the health system and diversifying its industrial, service and agricultural sectors. He also reiterated previous calls for international support to ending the illegal occupation of Georgian sovereign lands by the Russian Federation. Moscow is occupying 20 per cent of Georgian territory and seeking to undermine the country’s aspirations to join the European and Euro-Atlantic family.
Citing a humanitarian crisis — created by the occupying Power ‑ in the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, he referred to a recent European Court for Human Rights verdict that found the Russian Federation guilty of occupying those two regions and responsible for human rights violations there. He called upon the global community to address violations of international law and facilitate the implementation of the European Union-mediated 2008 ceasefire agreement. Describing a situation in those occupied territories as “pre-planned ethnic cleansing to drive ethnic Georgians out”, he said it must be “seen for what it is” and put to an end.
SCOTT MORRISON, Prime Minister of Australia, said the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the world like nothing in our lifetime. Welcoming the development of safe and effective vaccines, he said Australia has vaccinated more than 70 per cent of its adult population against the virus, while also helping countries across the region battle this pandemic with personal protective equipment, testing equipment and medical personnel. “And now we’re doing everything we can to help them with access to safe and effective vaccines,” he said, noting that Australia has delivered more than 3 million doses to countries across the Indo-Pacific, with millions more on the way. It has also contributed $130 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, which has delivered over 5 million doses to south-east Asia and 1.7 million doses to Pacific family countries and Timor-Leste.
Meanwhile, he said, COVID-19 has underscored the vital importance of international cooperation and coordination. “The patterns of cooperation that have sustained our prosperity and security for decades are under increasing strain,” he said, as are the institutions that helped maintain that rules-based international order for over seven decades. Citing rising tensions over territorial claims, rapid military modernization, foreign interference, cyber threats, disinformation and even economic coercion, he said addressing such challenges requires cooperation and a common purpose among likeminded nations.
Emphasizing that Australia’s interests are inextricably linked to an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific region, where the rights of all States — no matter how large or how small — are protected, he outlined its work in various forums including ASEAN, the Pacific Islands Forum, the “Quad” group and the new enhanced trilateral security partnership, known as AUKUS. He also spotlighted the country’s determination to help meet the global challenge of climate change, as the world makes the transition to a net-zero, global energy economy. The country has a proven track record when it comes to setting, achieving and exceeding its commitments to responsibly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It exceeded its Kyoto commitments, and its emissions in the year leading up to March 2021 were 21 per cent below 2005 levels.
He also noted that Australia is investing some $20 billion to commercialize promising new technologies such as clean hydrogen, green steel, long-duration energy storage and carbon capture, which are vital to meeting the global task to achieve net zero emissions. As a proud, liberal democracy, Australia also always stands up for human rights, gender equality and the rule of law, and raises its voice on important issues such as the rights of women and girls and indigenous peoples, and for the global abolition of the death penalty.
SHEIKH NAWAF AL-AHMAD AL-JABER AL-SABAH, Amir of Kuwait, said pandemic statistics reveal “the magnitude of the scars that will remain present for a long time in the global conscience.” He cited over 4.5 million fatalities, cases exceeding 200 million, and the unbearable burden on the shoulders of health sectors and those working on the front lines, despite the horrors that threatened the collapse of health systems across the world. The crisis is “a mirror to the world, reflecting its weaknesses and revealing its flaws,” but also the emergence of creativity, innovation, and adaptation. Calling for fair and secure distribution of vaccines to reach universal immunization levels, he noted Kuwait has achieved one of the world’s highest vaccination percentages with 72 per cent of citizens and residents alike, as well as contributing $327.4 million to the fight, most recently $40 million to GAVI — the Vaccine Alliance — and the COVAX facility.
The Palestinian question still occupies the central pivotal position in Arab and Muslim worlds, he stressed. Tension and instability will remain prevalent in the region unless the Palestinian people obtain their legitimate political rights and Israel stops building settlements, confiscating land, blockading Gaza and desecrating holy places. To that end, he called for establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, along pre-1967 borders, and return of refugees, also praising the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for providing basic assistance to millions.
As the Syrian crisis enters its eleventh year, with all the humanitarian pain it bears, he reaffirmed there is no military solution, emphasizing the need for a political settlement according to relevant Security Council resolutions. He renewed support for the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to Yemen, noting the constructive roles undertaken by the Saudi Arabia to implement the Riyadh Agreement, as well as its initiative for peace in Yemen, and condemning all attacks on Saudi territory.
Hailing the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in electing a President and deputies for the Presidential Council as a sign of “a quantum leap” towards peace, he called for Libya to ensure elections are held as scheduled on 24 December 2021. Growing subversive operations by terrorist organizations, especially Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), are a spur to intensify efforts in combating the danger in all its forms. Also citing “delicate developments” in Afghanistan, he urged the Taliban movement to exercise utmost self-restraint to prevent bloodshed, provide full protection to civilians and adhere to international laws. He renewed a call to Iran to commence a dialogue built on respect for the sovereignty of States and non-intervention in their internal affairs, reducing tension in the Gulf and preserving the safety, security and freedom of maritime navigation.
ANA BRNABIĆ, Prime Minister of Serbia, said that in addition to the global challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, the Balkans is still confronted with pressing and extremely emotional issues. Serbia is trying to change the future through the Berlin Process and the Open Balkan initiative, but others are trying to disrupt those efforts and recreate the past, whatever the cost might be. She credited the reforms which Serbia launched in 2014 for enabling the country to weather the pandemic, with stable finances and a stronger-than-expected economic recovery. By putting geopolitics aside, Serbia acquired vaccines more quickly than most other countries, she added. It did not discriminate between East and West, but negotiated instead with all manufacturers whose vaccines were deemed safe by regulators. It also donated or allocated more than 1 million doses to other countries or to foreign nationals who came to Serbia to be vaccinated.
Climate change must be addressed boldly and without delay, she said, emphasizing that her country has redoubled its efforts to become safer and cleaner for its citizens. Serbia is strongly committed to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, and it will meet its obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is about to submit its revised nationally determined contributions and it is making expensive investments in the energy sector.
The most worrisome challenge for Serbia is the maintenance of peace and stability in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija, she continued, noting that for two decades, her country has been drawing international attention to the problems faced by the non-Albanian population there. Attacks targeting Serbs, their property and their religious heritage are growing, with the number of incidents up to June this year surpassing the total for 2020.
Serbia remains strongly committed to finding a compromise-based solution to ensure lasting peace and stability, but almost nine years after the signing of the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations between Belgrade and Pristina, the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities —a key part of that text — has yet to begin. The international community, especially the European Union as the First Agreement’s guarantor, must firmly insist that Pristina implement all of the agreements it has entered into. Going forward, Serbia expects the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to continue to implement its mandate, she added.
METTE FREDERIKSEN, Prime Minister of Denmark, said that international solidarity had the power to move the world forward and overcome the pandemic. Global cooperation was urgently needed. “We must ensure global access to vaccines. None of us can leave COVID behind until all of us can,” she stated. To that end, her Government announced the donation of 3 million vaccine doses. This week, Denmark redoubled the efforts with an aim to donate more than 6 million doses, which was one donated vaccine for each Dane. Denmark’s vaccine contribution was in addition to its commitment to COVAX with more than $15 million. The international community must strengthen the ability to prevent and respond to future pandemics, she stressed.
She also called for keeping the Paris Agreement goal alive. Climate change hits the world’s poorest and weakest communities hardest. Therefore, Denmark was responding to the call of the Secretary-General and scaling up Danish grant-based climate finance to at least $500 million a year by 2023. As well, it was dedicating 60 per cent to adaptation in poor and vulnerable countries and was strengthening efforts to mobilize public and private finance from other sources. It was also aiming to contribute at least 1 per cent of the collective target of $100 billion and was fully focused on reducing its own emissions. “Denmark will be climate neutral no later than 2050,” she stated, highlighting its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent until 2030. Her Government also decided to end production of oil and gas and build the world’s first energy islands, which will create clean energy for millions of European households.
“Every one of us needs to act and adapt individually. But we also must act for the common good,” she went on to say. Describing the current situation in Afghanistan as disturbing, she said that a strong and coordinated response was needed. The contribution at the international donor conference last week was an important step. Expressing appreciation for the commitment of international humanitarian partners, she underscored that no people in conflict zones should be forgotten. In addition, in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, women and young people had a vital role to play. Therefore, Denmark remained committed to the agenda for women, peace and security.
The international community was leaving the destiny of too many people to human smugglers, she pointed out, adding that the current asylum and migration system was not addressing today’s challenges. “We need to do better. To save lives. To prevent rape and abuse,” she stated. Calling for new common solutions, she said that Denmark is devoted to addressing the root causes. Moreover, she highlighted Denmark’s commitment to a strong and efficient United Nations that protects the rule-based international order, promotes a more progressive world, and fights injustice. The international community needed to act on the recommendations made in “Our Common Agenda”. The social contract between Governments and people must be renewed. As host of the World Summit for Social Development in 1995, Denmark had a special responsibility to work towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
ANDREW HOLNESS, Prime Minister of Jamaica, said the pandemic continues to exacerbate challenges, especially for small island developing States such as his, which already have limited resources. Sharing vaccines in a strategic manner serves the global common good, as no country will be safe until all are safe, he stressed, welcoming support received from bilateral and international partners and through the COVAX Facility. However, the latter “has not met expectations, as its noble ideals have been displaced by nationalistic endeavours”. He called for urgent, increased international cooperation to avoid further widening the recovery gap across countries and regions.
Turning to the digital divide, he said addressing the pandemic’s consequences will require greater engagement of the public and private sectors in building the foundations for long term development. Jamaica is taking an inclusive approach to improve digital literacy, including through a 50 per cent increase in access to information and communications technology (ICT) in schools over the next four years. Countries should be supported in their efforts to build robust and resilient digital infrastructure, as public investments of that sort can serve as a force multiplier to narrow gaps and inequality. In that context, he advocated for a bolstered digital alliance at the international level and expressed his support for the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.
Noting that Jamaica anticipates real GDP recovery within four years, he stressed that the country will require adequate fiscal space and funding to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to respond and recover from the health, social and economic implications of the pandemic. That is particularly true in light of high debt-servicing requirements. “The continued use of measures of development which do not take into account the full spectrum of vulnerabilities of small island developing States is a major impediment to our efforts to attain the [Goals],” he emphasized, pointing out that island States in the Caribbean are located in one of the most disaster-prone regions of the world and are therefore more vulnerable than income data suggest. Consideration of such States’ developmental level must be linked to their socioeconomic and environmental vulnerabilities.
In a similar vein, he called for a revision of the graduation criteria for least-developed, developing and middle-income States, “as the classification system utilized by international financial institutions is simply not appropriate”. “Graduation must be a reward, not a punishment,” he stressed, echoing sentiments previously expressed by the Secretary-General. Jamaica also seeks the reorientation of the international financial system to align financing with sustainable development. Noting that climate change continues to compromise the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in many countries, he pointed out that small island developing States have been largely unable to access climate finance at the pace and scale necessary to meet the challenges they face. He joined other small island developing States in calling for delivery of the $100 billion per year committed in 2015 by the international donor community.
JOHN BRICEÑO, Prime Minister of Belize, said the pandemic brought his country’s economy “to its knees” with 30 per cent unemployment, a GDP decline of 14 per cent, debt ballooning to 130 per cent of GDP, and a poverty rate increased to 60 per cent. The deadly human toll includes a fatality rate of 2.05 per cent, thousands hospitalized and health facilities overwhelmed. Loans originally committed for development and climate change were diverted to cover emergency health needs. The Common Framework and Debt Service Suspension Initiative failed to offer forbearance to most middle-income small island developing States, including Belize, while most similar countries had no recourse to concessionary financing for immediate health response.
The immediate global response was slow and inadequate to the scale and depth of the health crisis, he said, noting 80 per cent of vaccines administered worldwide have been in high- and upper-middle-income countries, with only 0.4 per cent of doses administered in low-income States, and in Latin America and the Caribbean — the region worst hit by the pandemic — only a fifth of the population has received vaccines.
Noting “Belize exists today because of the multilateral system,” he thanked Member States for support of its territorial integrity and right to self-determination, critical to achieving independence. Despite a global inclination to retreat towards nationalist tendencies, the magnitude of crises and urgency of action required cannot be met by any one country. Belize is pursuing, along with Guatemala, the final and peaceful resolution of Guatemala’s claim to Belizean territory at the International Court of Justice. He called for an end to the continued ineligibility of small island developing States from accessing concessional finance.
Like other such States, Belize is “on the frontline of a climate crisis for which we are not responsible”, incurring annual losses of close to 4 per cent of GDP due to natural disasters, he said. The country aims for forest restoration and achieving 75 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. “We are doing our part. We expect the developed countries and major emitters to do their part,” he stressed. Condemning vaccine hoarding and predatory purchasing, he noted 73 per cent of the more than 5.7 billion vaccine doses administered globally have been given in just 10 countries. Belize has no delivery date for its next COVAX shipment.
Turning to Cuba, he condemned the unilateral economic, commercial and financial embargo bringing suffering to millions of innocent people, which does not reflect the good will of the people of the United States. Expressing support for an independent Palestinian State within its 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital and the right of return, he noted the Sahawari people are similarly prevented from exercising their right to self-determination. He also expressed concern about the situation of Haiti and the inhumane treatment of Haitian refugees risking their lives traversing two continents for a better future.
ALEXANDER DE CROO, Prime Minister of Belgium, said that only through multilateralism will the world provide answers to today’s complex crises. Three vulnerabilities need priority focus, he said, first drawing attention to combating the pandemic. Belgium is a leading vaccine exporter, with 530 million doses having already been exported. Vaccine solidarity is essential, he said, regretting to note that less than 4 per cent of Africans are vaccinated. COVAX is the best mechanism to strengthen vaccination coverage. But, more must be done, including boosting local vaccine production through technology transfer and sharing knowledge, which is one of Team Europe’s objectives. The world must also prepare for the next pandemic. A new treaty would improve access to vaccines and a transformed WHO would create an organization that is fit for purpose. As the pandemic affects development efforts, countries must work together, he said, noting that a European initiative is focusing on helping the most vulnerable countries.
The climate crisis also needs attention, he continued, pointing to the harmful impact seen across the world, including extreme weather conditions. After the summer brought the worst flooding in history, Belgium will rebuild. However, the world cannot wait for the next flood. As such, COP26 will be among the most important meetings in years. Encouraging other countries to follow Europe’s ambitions, he said initiatives are centred around green growth. For its part, Belgium will increase investments in renewables alongside taking other key steps. “We need to do whatever it takes,” he said, adding that building resilience of the most fragile nations is imperative, including by fulfilling promises of providing $100 billion in climate funding.
The third vulnerability is security, he said, recalling terrorist attacks on Belgium, United States and other countries over the past two decades. Terrorists continue to claim innocent lives, he said, noting that Belgium actively participates in counter-terrorism efforts, including through UNDP. Security is not sufficient to ensure stability, as the failure to prevent conflict often comes after failing to protect human dignity. Belgium will continue to do its part, including by helping the people of Afghanistan. Humanitarian assistance is needed to save lives, but tents and food will not be enough for the Afghan people to prevent the country from imploding. A country plunged into extreme poverty is vulnerable to fall into following extreme ideologies. Peace, security and development are impossible without a profound respect for human rights, he said, adding that women and girls often suffer the most. Afghan women and girls are already bearing the brunt and have been teargassed, beaten and incarcerated. The fight against racism is also of paramount importance, he said, reaffirming Belgium’s belief that human rights are essential for all. “These global vulnerabilities threaten the very fabric of our societies, our ways of life,” he said. “They can only be addressed by a collective answer, based on a dynamic multilateralism.”
TIMOTHY HARRIS, Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, said the battle against COVID-19 is not yet won, and its devastating impact on societies and economies continues. Making the world safe requires equitable access to vaccines and other medical products and technologies. With help from the COVAX facility, 66 per cent of the adult population of Saint Kitts and Nevis is fully vaccinated. Along with an effective response plan, it is paramount to continue investing in a resilient health system and comprehensive public health services. Mental health and well-being are also vital, and services are now available through the National Counselling Centre. Sadly, the pandemic’s economic impact will be felt for years to come. Tourism — the nation’s biggest economic driver — ground to halt, and the Government implemented a multimillion-dollar stimulus package, reduced corporate income tax for employers retaining 75 per cent of their workforce and introduced tax and import duty waivers for pandemic-related products.
Turning to climate change, he said the pandemic’s impact on development goals means that efforts must be redoubled. Climate change and climate-related events continue to threaten the existence of small island developing States, and as it intensifies, the world witnesses its impact: the erosion of coasts owing to rising sea levels; fisherfolk struggling to maintain their livelihoods from waning oceanic diversity; and families forced to relocate away from coastal areas due to the strength, intensity and relentlessness of each passing hurricane season. Sustainable Development Goals 13, 14 and 15 are of particular significance, he said, adding that a less negative outcome of the pandemic has been its effect in turbo-charging the digitization of the workplace and societies. But, not all countries — particularly small island developing States — have the infrastructure, capacity and workforce skills to fully benefit from this revolution. Rebuilding sustainably requires re-evaluating digital accessibility, affordability and technical assistance so every country can exploit the digital economy in one properly networked world.
Outlining other barriers to development, he first pointed to the criteria employed to determine aid and financial support, with the GDP per capita benchmark being simplistic and flawed, falling short from recognizing other critical factors. Bias and the omission of such factors as vulnerabilities prevents nations like Saint Kitts and Nevis from accessing critical development assistance, he stated, calling for a new set of more adequate and relevant measures encompassing social, environmental/climate-related and economic considerations to regulate entitlements, such as a multidimensional vulnerability index. The protection of life from violent crime is also of fundamental importance and discussions surrounding small arms and light weapons remain critical to democracy. Reiterating that uncontrolled proliferation of illicit firearms has significant effects on economic development and human rights of every citizen in the world, he said the new challenges emerging from the technological development must be considered and confronted.
Partnerships are critical going forward, he said, noting that Saint Kitts and Nevis continues to build strong alliances. In this vein, he raised several concerns, calling for the lifting of the embargo against Cuba and renewing a call for Taiwan’s inclusion in the international community. Recalling the recent meeting on the twentieth anniversary on the Durban Declaration, he underlined the importance for the world to be united against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Untold suffering and evil were inflicted on millions of men, women and children of African descent, as a result of the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism, apartheid and many of the other ills of history and other crimes against humanity. Welcoming the establishment of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent, he echoed the region’s clarion call for reparations and reparatory justice. For its part, Saint Kitts and Nevis has formed the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Committee and established a 10-point plan that outlines the path to reconciliation and justice for victims of crimes against humanity and their descendants, he said, expressing hope that this meeting invokes a renewed momentum to pursue action to right the wrongs that are still manifested today.
“We are all in this together; my hope is that we will emerge from COVID-19 stronger and more united than before,” he said. “There is no better place than the General Assembly to forge a positive consensus in order to build a better future for our children, our grandchildren and their children. We are living in unprecedented times, and we have responded admirably so far, but we must continue to be proactive, relentless, resilient, and willing to share our ideas and resources as members of the same brotherhood of nations. We look therefore to the future with hope and with great expectation.”
Right of Reply
The representative of India, exercising the right of reply, responded to a statement made by her counterpart from Pakistan, which has an established history of harbouring and supporting terrorists. The world has not forgotten that Osama Bin Laden had received shelter in Pakistan, she said. Today, the leader of Pakistan tried to justify terrorism when the country nurtures terrorists in its backyard in hopes they would only harm their neighbours. This is a regime where anti-Semitism exists alongside disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Reiterating that the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir has always been and always will be part of India, she called on Pakistan to vacate all areas it is illegally occupying.
The representative of Pakistan said India must unlock the current situation and restore the rights of people living in the occupied territory in Jammu and Kashmir. While major human rights organizations have expressed serious concerns, including in the occupied territory, about human rights, India has failed to respond. Pakistan has released a well-researched report on human rights violations, she said, calling on the international community to recognize this evidence and hold India accountable for these horrible crimes and to support a full investigation. Citing examples of how India supports terrorists, she said it resorts to State terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, having killed 96,000 people and used rape as a weapon of war. India also supports terrorist organizations that attack Pakistan.
For information media. Not an official record.