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Speakers Stress Link between Historical Injustices, Africa's Current … – United Nations

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The world should not pretend that Africa’s present day economic and social conditions are not connected with historical injustices, world leaders stressed today as the General Assembly high-level debate continued, with speakers underscoring the need to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries.
In the ensuing debate, 40 Heads of State and Government urged the international community to tackle global challenges, including conflict, climate change and defending fragile democracies and their institutions in an often hostile global environment.
Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, stressed that ongoing threats to Africa’s constitutional stability are signs of deeper problems, ranging from past and present injustices to the burdens of poverty, widespread unemployment and discrimination.  Calling on Member States to accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals, he stated that “the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development isn’t merely an outline; it is a solemn pact we’ve entered,” committing to crafting a world steeped in peace and prosperity.  “Our duty is clear:  we must lift our people from poverty,” he said.
Echoing that sentiment, Hage G. Geingob, President of Namibia, pointed to the “terrifying” gap between the wealthy and the marginalized and stressed the need to “end vaccine apartheid”.  Accordingly, he urged for the removal of intellectual property barriers and stronger commitments from wealthy nations on investments in manufacturing to enable vaccine production in the Global South. Moreover, developed nations must provide financial support to enable developing countries to shift to cleaner energy sources, he emphasized, detailing Namibia’s initiatives to make use of clean electricity.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, noting that Member States have never found “the courage and the will” to execute United Nations reform, urged for correcting the injustice of the Security Council’s composition in representing African countries.  Recalling historical injustices, he said:  “It is time to acknowledge openly that much of Europe and the United States have been built from the vast wealth harvested from the sweat, tears, blood and horrors of the transatlantic slave trade”.  It is time to bring the subject of reparations to the fore, he added.
Also addressing Africa, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, emphasized that the African people often do not understand the double standards of the Security Council in serious political and security crises plaguing the continent — in the forgotten Western Sahara, or Mozambique, the victim of deadly terrorist attacks.  On his own country, his Government called for moving up the withdrawal deadline of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) from December 2024 to December 2023, as it is time for Kinshasa to take full control of its destiny.
A number of delegates emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant in defending democracy and its institutions, which are interlinked and fundamental to safeguarding and advancing fundamental rights and freedoms.
Maia Sandu, President of the Republic of Moldova, stressed that “countries like mine haven’t broken free from imperial chains only to be brought back into servitude.”  Noting that enlargement of the European Union is the sole path to ensure the region stays anchored in the free world she added that the success or downfall of one democracy resonates globally.  “When one thrives, it inspires hope in others; when one falters, it risks a domino effect,” she said. “Today, the fight for democracy anywhere is a fight for democracy everywhere.
Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón, President of Spain, pointed to a wave of extremism and reactionary thinking rising all over the world, marginalizing and criminalizing disadvantaged minorities, rejecting equality.  However, he drew hope from efforts to uphold the legacy of growth and progress.  This is particularly the case when it comes to equality between women and men, as recent events in the world of sport have shown, and there is no better antidote to reactionary extremism than feminism. He further cited constitutional reform in Chile.
Gabriel Boric Font, President of Chile, underscoring a “firm conviction that democracy is memory and future”, recalled the details surrounding the 11 September 1973 coup d’état in his country, that were recently commemorated, 50 years on.  Chile has learned that democracy is vulnerable, fragile and not guaranteed; that violence is not acceptable as a method of political action; and that dialogue must always be prioritized among those with different views.  He underlined the need to stop the advance of totalitarianism and to confront the disinformation that is corroding democracies from within.
Statements
WAVEL RAMKALAWAN, President of Seychelles, said that trust and solidarity form the bedrock of a functional multilateral order.  As the challenge to global peace, security and prosperity takes on new dimensions, the lessons of the past become more relevant. The 2030 Agenda — a transformative blueprint for sustainable development — is a road map to eradicate poverty, promote human rights and protect the planet, he stressed, calling on those present to address imbalances — inequality, poverty, hunger and environmental degradation — and align their national polices with that document. Recognizing that by forging strategic alliances, States can leverage resources, expertise and influence to catalyse change, he highlighted the potential of South-South cooperation for knowledge exchange and development.  Against this backdrop, through the African Peer Review Mechanism and the voluntary national review, Seychelles seeks to consolidate its political and socioeconomic successes, standing ready to share its experience with other countries.
He went on to state that development partners must deliver on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda by scaling up Sustainable Development Goals financing, also noting that international financial institutions should embrace reform to enable development funding for vulnerable countries. “Seychelles firmly believes in the critical importance of adopting a multidimensional vulnerability index that fully responds to the needs of small island developing States,” he underscored, also emphasizing the importance of impact investment, public-private partnerships and debt relief to yield results for the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in 2024.  Commending the Sustainable Development Goals Stimulus, aimed at transforming the global financial system, he said that international financial institutions must collaborate for a sustainable future.
Also noting that addressing the climate crisis is an immediate necessity, he reiterated his country’s commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency.  “But as a small island developing State, we lack the capacity and infrastructure to develop these solutions fully,” he added, underscoring that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Group of 20 (G-20) member States — as major emitters — must take decisive actions to tackle climate change.  Spotlighting nature-based solutions, exemplified by Seychelles’ pioneering of blue bonds and blue economy, he paid tribute to Bermuda and Tonga, which started harnessing wave energy towards clean energy future.  “Seychelles will continue the same ambitious approach as we assume the Presidency of the SIDS [small island developing States] dock from Tonga,” he stressed, also highlighting the Small Island Developing States Coalition for Nature, launched by Belize, Cabo Verde, Samoa and his country.
“This is clear evidence that SIDS [small island developing States] continue to lead by example — doing more than our fair share to alleviate the pressure being exerted on our planet,” he continued, stating that through such cooperation States can achieve impactful outcomes, as demonstrated by the recent adoption of the High Seas Treaty.  Calling on those present to embrace the world’s interconnectedness, he said that Seychelles — a nation uniquely positioned in the Indian Ocean — knows firsthand the significance of global cooperation in addressing climate change, ocean conservation and marine security.  Reiterating his country’s commitment to marine conservation, protecting vast ocean area and marine ecosystems, he emphasized:  “We cannot succeed alone.  We call upon the global community to prioritize sustainability, transition to clean energy and preserve our ecosystems for the prosperity of all.”
PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said a debt crisis that constrains developing countries — including higher costs for borrowing — is causing economic disparities to widen, slowing down collective progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.  The primary cause of this crisis is high interest rates in developed economies. At the same time, developing countries face exaggerated risk premiums, for both currency and political risk, which are simply unjustified. “We need serious cooperation to address this,” he asserted, simultaneously highlighting the developing countries’ responsibility to be accountable for the quality of their financial governance and the management of their natural resources.  “Increasing access to finance also requires reform of our global financial institutions,” he said, welcoming in this regard the proposals of the Bridgetown Initiative, as well as the Paris Summit for a New Global Financing Pact.  He also supported the second replenishment of the Green Climate Fund to create the fiscal space for vulnerable nations to tackle climate change.
“Africa and small island developing States, many of which are represented in the Commonwealth, want to work with partners and be part of the solution,” he stressed, pointing to an important outcome of the recent Africa Climate Summit, held in Nairobi.  “However, we must not only cool down on climate; we must also cool down on conflict,” he pointed out, stressing that innocent lives are left alone to carry the burden of this instability.  A case in point of this “profound injustice” is the migration crisis:  every year, migrants and refugees undertake dangerous journeys in search of a better future.  Accordingly, he reiterated Rwanda’s commitment to working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to contribute to a durable solution.  Citing governance shortfalls as “the root cause of instability”, he commended the Secretary-General’s report “A New Agenda for Peace”.
He went on to underscore that bilateral interventions can provide a rapid response to a crisis situation; however, to have lasting effect, they need to pave the way for multilateral engagement and internal political progress.  No matter the number of troops deployed, the mindset should be to get results, which serve the interests of the people on the ground.  “Paying lip service to peace, and getting lost in process and formalities, only serves to confirm the selective attention of some in the international community,” he said.
He further emphasized that Africa urgently needs to be fully represented in bodies where decisions concerning its future are made.  Just as urgently, Africa must be fully prepared to speak with one voice.  Ultimately, a more effective development cooperation framework must give equal weight to everyone’s needs and priorities, he said, underlining the need to build fair and equal partnerships, and a more just and peaceful world.  In that spirit, he commended the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the Timbuktoo initiative to strengthen the African startup innovation ecosystem. Also, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently unveiled a major new initiative on inclusive digital public infrastructure.  “Rwanda is very happy to be associated with these efforts, which show the United Nations at its best,” he said, drawing attention to the Third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries, which his country will host in June 2024.
NIKOS CHRISTODOULIDES, President of Cyprus, said that the Charter of the United Nations is still a promise, not a reality.  He condemned any breach of international peace and security effected through military action by any State, against the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of another State.  “Since the first day of the aggression against Ukraine, the people of Cyprus — a third of them still displaced as a result of foreign aggression against their own country — have displayed solidarity, with deeds, not just words, to the people of Ukraine,” he said, calling on the world to step back from the edge of a war that could reduce the United Nations to rubble.
“Just like in Ukraine, in Cyprus the UN Charter and international law continue to be violated.  In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus, and since then, 49 years on, occupies European territory, and its people — Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots — continue to suffer the consequences of invasion, occupation, division,” he underscored, blaming the Turkish military forces for perpetrating further violations in Varosha, the fenced area of Famagusta.  Since 1974, Varosha has been held hostage and rendered a ghost town, contrary to Security Council resolutions, he emphasized, recalling recent attacks on UN peacekeepers by Turkish forces.  “Working towards peace in Cyprus is my absolute priority, and I want to take this opportunity to also send a personal message to [Türkiye President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan.  There is not, and never will be, another basis for settlement of the Cyprus question to that dictated by the United Nations Security Council resolutions,” he stated, adding that Cyprus and Türkiye are neighbours, bound by geography.  “Mr. Erdoğan, let us work together guided by a vision of peace.  Let us build a brighter future for our countries, through dialogue and respect of international legality,” he said.
At a time when international laws are under attack, “UN Security Council resolutions must prevail”, he stressed, calling on the Organization to become a driving force for dialogue, by appointing, as a first step, an Envoy on the Cyprus problem, to explore and prepare the ground for the resumption of negotiations.
Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that they require universal efforts and transformative solutions as the climate emergency and climate change know no borders.  “Our own region, the Eastern Mediterranean, is especially vulnerable in this regard.  The raging wildfires and floods during this summer are a somber reminder of the fact that we are failing to act, at our own peril,” he said, reminding that Cyprus is actively participating in a new international climate change initiative. Speaking of the importance of human rights, he announced his country’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council for the period 2025-2027.  Cyprus “can become a hub of stability, peace and cooperation” and has “come together with its immediate neighbours — Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Greece — to build a solid network of cooperation that is underpinned by a vision to make the Mediterranean a sea of peace, cooperation and prosperity,” he underscored.
HAGE G. GEINGOB, President of Namibia, said that with the onset of COVID-19, the number of people living in extreme poverty rose for the first time in a generation.  “Indeed, the world is in a state of flux and progress is uneven,” he added.  The “terrifying” gap between the wealthy and the marginalized is not just a moral concern, but a threat to global stability.  Pandemics have long been formidable adversaries that disproportionately wreak havoc on the socioeconomic fabric of developing countries.  These crises go beyond their immediate health implications, unravelling years of development, straining health-care systems and exacerbating existing socioeconomic disparities.  “We need to change the status quo.  To do so, we must end vaccine apartheid,” he continued.  Further, he urged for the removal of intellectual property barriers and stronger commitments from wealthy nations on investments in manufacturing to enable vaccine production in the Global South.
Advocating for gender equality is not only a matter of fairness; it is an essential step towards unlocking innovation, diversity and social cohesion, he continued.  In addition to having 44 per cent female representation in Parliament, Namibia has women in the positions of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and two thirds of its key banking institutions are headed by women.  Turning to rapid advances in technology, he said quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming the global landscape, offering unprecedented challenges and opportunities for growth and development.  “Access to technology can bridge gaps in education, health care and economic development, propelling nations towards progress,” he went on to say.
Consistent with their pledges made at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, developed nations must provide financial support to enable developing countries to shift to cleaner energy sources, he emphasized.  For its part, Namibia has attracted new industries looking to make use of clean electricity.  One such example is the Oshivela project, which plans to use Namibian-produced green hydrogen to deliver the first industrial production of iron at net-zero emissions, he said.  Oshivela will be one of the biggest primary production sites of green iron in the world and is expected to sequestrate 27,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, equivalent to 50 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions of Namibia’s entire power industry today.  Furthermore, Namibia is developing green shipping corridors for zero-carbon shipping.
On another matter, he called the embargo against Cuba unjust and urged it be lifted.  The United States must remove Cuba from the list of State sponsors of terrorism.  Selective punitive measures against Zimbabwe and Venezuela must also be lifted, as these measures constitute the greatest obstacle to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Charter of the United Nations reflects the commonly agreed upon values of diplomacy and peaceful coexistence.  While Namibia’s right to self-determination has been upheld, the people of Western Sahara continue to remain under occupation, he said.  Recalling how Morocco supported Namibia’s right to self-determination, he urged Rabat “to do the same” for the people of Western Sahara.  Similarly, the people of Palestine yearn to transition from the inhumane conditions of oppressive rule, he also added.
KLAUS IOHANNIS, President of Romania, said his country is a direct neighbour to the continued war of aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.  “And we acted, with all our energy, to bring a solid contribution to regional and international security and stability,” he stressed.  This war has further demonstrated that the Black Sea needs more global attention, as it is of strategic importance for transatlantic security. For its part, Romania has acted in full solidarity with the Ukrainian people.  “We will continue to provide safe haven and protect refugees coming from our neighbour, as we did for over 6 million Ukrainians who already crossed our borders,” he emphasized.  Romania fully supports Ukraine’s peace plan as the most suitable framework conducive to a fair, lasting and sustainable peace.  It also supports the pursuit of international law, so that all those responsible for atrocities are brought to justice. 
The wider Black Sea region must be protected against the effects of the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, he continued.  Romania has been constantly urging the need to keep the so-called protracted or frozen conflicts in the region high on the UN’s agenda.  “While we work in the present to defend our values, we should also continue to project a sustainable future,” he said.  Romania continues to actively pursue the 2030 Agenda.  Food insecurity, energy and economic instability affect everyone, but especially the most vulnerable in the Global South.  By terminating the Black Sea Initiative and by attacking Ukrainian ports, the Russian Federation has further exacerbated the global food crisis.
Since the beginning of the war, Romania has facilitated the delivery of over 25.5 million tons of Ukrainian grain.  “Romania will not let down our most vulnerable partners who need our support, especially those from least developed countries, including from Africa,” he added.  Through its Sustainable Development Strategy, Romania has advanced efficient, transparent and citizen-centred governance.  Romania’s second voluntary national review “is proof that we are on the right track, as we already achieved 62 per cent of our national targets for 2030”.  The country is committed to increasing its official development assistance (ODA) to 0.33 per cent of its gross national income by 2030.  It also aims to contribute to the European Union’s objective to allocate 0.20 per cent of its collective ODA to the least developed countries, he added.
Turning to climate change, he urged for a climate and security nexus to be more prominent on the UN agenda, including in the Security Council. “We must accelerate a just energy transition and emissions reduction,” he added, underscoring opportunities brought forth by digitalization, innovation and new technologies, as well as strategic investments in renewables.  Furthermore, the key for efficient multilateralism is to ensure its successful reform, which cannot be delayed.  An enlarged Security Council could include important additional voices:  from the African Group, from various small island developing States and even from the smallest regional group — the East European one, he said.
CHANDRIKAPERSAD SANTOKHI, President of Suriname, noting that the challenges and crises facing the world have increased and deepened, he underscored the need to focus on solutions.  “We make promises, not often kept.  We express noble goals, but the delivery is poor.  This cannot go on; business as usual cannot be our mantra,” he asserted.  No country is spared the effects of these crises, especially developing States, including Suriname, and no country can solve these challenges alone.  Accordingly, he called for a new approach to conceptualizing relations among countries to address these crises adequately — “a new kind of multilateralism, that is more just, effective and forces us to unite”.  It is of utmost importance to transcend national interests and look to our shared global goals, he pointed out, stressing the need to put aside ideological differences.
To achieve this endeavour, “a strong, determined, and united United Nations is a must,” he declared, noting that the multiple global and national crises — such as the debt burden, domestic effects of climate change, the financial-economic downturn following the pandemic and the impact of the raging war in Ukraine — have put tremendous pressure on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  For small developing countries, with low-lying coastal areas, the fiscal pressure due to other crises beyond their doing, is a real and daily problem.  Recalling his recent visit to Cuba, he stressed the importance of science, technology and innovation to increase food production, and noted the negative impact of the long-standing embargo.  Stressing the need to ensure an accessible, transparent and safe digitally transformative environment, he spotlighted Suriname’s recently adopted National Digital Strategy 2023-2030.
Turning to the deteriorating political, humanitarian and security environment in Haiti, he commended the efforts made so far to assist in finding an immediate solution and added that increased political efforts are needed to translate the intentions into tangible actions.  The people of Haiti are looking to the regional and international community for assistance.  At the same time, the Haitian stakeholders, divided into opposing groups, must demonstrate the will to reach a consensus.  He spoke of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference and said that it was regrettable that, despite efforts, the world remains far from reaching the required level of emissions to prevent irreversible damage to the global environment and society.  “And we are bearing the brunt”, he stressed, adding that Suriname is currently experiencing exceptionally high temperatures, resulting in challenges such as the availability of drinking water and heavy rainfall in inland areas, causing floods.  Consequently, the people living in remote parts of the country’s vast interior are deprived of work, education and basic utilities, while food security is under threat.
As one of the three carbon-negative countries in the world, Suriname remains committed to play its part in protecting the planet through partnerships that contribute to remaining carbon-negative for now and the future.  Calling for easier access to climate financing to implement mitigation and adaptation policies, he underlined the need to compensate highly-forested countries for the so-called “removal” credits, as these countries have acted as carbon sinks for the whole world without compensation.  In this regard, he highlighted the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the international financial architecture to address the economic, financial and environmental challenges faced by developing countries, calling on all heavy polluters to restrain from taxing or punishing environmentally friendly production in developing countries, which are the least responsible for the climate crisis.
NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, President of Ghana, said that the mutual trust among nations has diminished and the cohesion of societies is nearing that seen during the cold war.  “We do not seem to have any common values on which we can all agree, nor common goals to which we all aspire,” he stressed, also pointing to tensions over trade, climate and political boundaries and geopolitical spheres of influence among well-established and rich countries. While recognizing the achievements of the United Nations in the 78 years of its existence, he spotlighted the reluctance of some nations — that were major Powers at its formation — to reforming its organs, in particular the Security Council.  Recalling that Ghana is currently serving as a non-permanent member of the Council, he said it has witnessed Member States “preach” democracy, fairness and justice, while practising the opposite by prioritizing parochial interests over humanity.
He went on to say that Member States have never found “the courage and the will” to execute United Nations reform, reiterating a call for correcting the injustice of the Council’s composition in representing African countries.  “We cannot rebuild trust when the Organization, that should bind us, is seen by many as helping to perpetuate an unfair world order,” he stressed, noting that since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the Organization appears “unwilling or unable” to influence the events in that country.  Observing that instability in the Sahel and terrorist activities have put West African countries under political pressure and economic strain, he pointed to the re-emergence of coup d’états.  He said that regional conflicts would be more satisfactorily resolved if the international community supported, and not undermined, regional and continental organizations, also recalling that African people fought and died in the Second World War in defence of Europe and its allies. “It is surely time for the world to reciprocate in our time of need,” he stressed.
Recognizing that African countries do not seek to shirk the responsibility for the problems they face — that are of their own making — he also said that the world should not pretend that the continent’s present day economic and social conditions are not connected with historical injustices. “It is time to acknowledge openly that much of Europe and the United States have been built from the vast wealth harvested from the sweat, tears, blood and horrors of the transatlantic slave trade,” he emphasized, stating that it is time to bring the subject of reparations to the fore.  While no amount of money will ever make up for the horrors, it would make the point that millions of “productive” Africans were put to work in the Americas and the Caribbean without compensation for their labour.  Moreover, when slavery was abolished, slave owners were compensated for the loss of slaves — labelled as “property” and deemed to be “commodities” — he recalled, announcing that Ghana will hold a global conference on this matter in November.
He also reported that African States are annually losing more than $88 billion through illicit financial flows, adding:  “Yes, those monies too must be returned to the continent.”  It is difficult to understand why the recipient countries are comfortable retaining such funds, while labelling those countries, from which the money is taken as corrupt, he asserted.  To this end, he suggested that a joint taskforce of the African Union Commission and the OECD secretariat be charged to find ways of stopping those outflows. Noting that only 12 per cent of the Sustainable Development Goals targets are on track to be achieved, he emphasized:  “It is within our capacity to turn things around.”
ŽELJKO KOMŠIĆ, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, reiterated his country’s support for the 2030 Agenda.  While its implementation would lead Member States and their societies to self-sustainable development, its achievement will be challenging in today’s world dominated by wars and geopolitical interests.  One of the issues in building trust and encouraging global solidarity is migration, he pointed out.  While migrants are often seen as beneficiaries of the Sustainable Development Goals, the picture is different regarding their countries of origin.  He claimed that powerful countries select capable migrants and benefit from “exploiting their knowledge and abilities”, thereby weakening the smaller States.  The latter are thus losing both human capital and investment made into training highly qualified individuals.  “It is difficult to talk about building trust while larger countries and their large systems are taking over the population of smaller countries through migration,” he regretted.
This creates an environment in which poverty thrives and prevents socioeconomic development.  The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina corroborates this argument, he claimed, informing that there is a significant number of people leaving for more developed countries — mostly Western democracies.  The main reason for their departure is the lack of perspective in their country.  He stated that this is due to the political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina — one based on ethnicity.  “In such a system, the key jobs are not performed by the best and most qualified people, but by the politically and ethnically suitable ones,” he detailed, adding that this creates space for nepotism and corruption in all segments of society, eroding trust and social cohesion.  Further, the unfinished political system degrades democracy, slows the development of his country and hinders its accession to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), he noted.
He went on to accuse neighbouring countries of “skilfully using this political system to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina or make it meaningless as a State”. Twenty-seven years since being attacked by its two neighbours, such behaviour violates the minimum of interstate trust at the expense of building interstate cooperation, he underscored. In addition, this behaviour is often supported not only by authoritarian regimes but also by liberal democratic States, he wondered, stressing that:  “We will certainly not allow the division and disappearance of our thousand-year-old State.” Calling for the United Nations to support his country and its institutions to preserve peace in the Western Balkans, he reiterated that the fundamental problem of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies in the inequality of its citizens in the ethnic system of governance, destined to be conflictual. In such a situation, one easily loses hope in having a positive perspective for the future, he observed.
He lamented that the latest interventions of international representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina strengthened the undemocratic principle of governance and deepened the discrimination of citizens.  Highlighting that a transition to full democracy is a prerequisite for equality, especially in a post-war society, he declared that Bosnia and Herzegovina will have to change the entire paradigm and shift to civic political representation.  In this regard, he condemned a political leader of a neighbouring country for rejecting a judgement of the European Court of Human Rights on this matter. This undermines Bosnia and Herzegovina and “is reminiscent of the attitudes towards international law that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has built in the case of Ukraine”, he warned. Only when the political system changes and attacks from the neighbouring countries cease will Bosnia and Herzegovina be ready to be a completely legitimate actor in contributing to self-sustainable development through building trust and global solidarity, he concluded.
GITANAS NAUSĖDA, President of Lithuania, called for Member States to rise to the challenges and work together to preserve peace, prosperity and stability, and save planet Earth from the effects of disastrous climate change.  “I stand here to express my great concern about the devastating impact of climate change and to share the Lithuanian experience,” he said, calling for decisive actions to keep the Paris Agreement alive.  Lithuania is committed to addressing climate change, aiming to achieve a 70 per cent  reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and become climate-neutral in in 2050, with the central role to be played by renewable energy.  “There can be no sustainable development amidst a war,” he said, adding that the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine aggravates the global situation with food and energy security, finance, climate, health and migration.  “The international community can no longer allow Russia to manipulate and abuse global rules.  Its numerous crimes, such as the wholesale destruction of Ukrainian cities and towns, murder of thousands of innocent civilians and displacement of millions, bring disgrace upon the UN Security Council, where Russia still sits as a permanent member with the power of veto,” he underscored, calling for putting more pressure on Moscow to stop deliberate attacks on Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure.
He also said that the ecological catastrophe caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam should not be replicated in more dangerous forms.  “This war of aggression must stop, with an immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of troops and military equipment from Ukrainian territory.  And what I mean here is all territory — within the internationally recognized borders and territorial waters of 1991,” he emphasized, adding that Lithuania strongly endorses Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s peace formula.  He called on all Member States to provide substantial humanitarian, military, economic and diplomatic assistance to Ukraine, as well as to ensure the accountability of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  “While contemplating the issue of justice, we should also address the actions of the regime in Belarus which participates in this aggressive war by providing military assistance and facilitating the offensive from its territory,” he added, underlining the need to bring back Ukrainian children who were forcibly deported to the Russian Federation and Belarus. Mentioning the initiative to persecute sexual crimes perpetrated by Russian forces in Ukraine, he commended the unwavering dedication of the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict in addressing this critical issue.  “What is still lacking is a tribunal specifically designed to prosecute the very crime of aggression committed by Russia’s top political and military leadership,” he said, calling for the establishment of such an international tribunal, supported by a General Assembly resolution.
He said that Russia is currently holding the world hostage, blocking Ukrainian grain exports, looting occupied Ukrainian territories and devastating local agricultural infrastructure.  “Unilateral actions, such as Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative, endangering at least 82 countries and 350 million people currently on the food insecurity front line, should be universally condemned,” he said, stressing that the solution is not to lift sanctions on Moscow.  He stated that Lithuania expects more active cooperation by the Russian Federation in protecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant according to the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Reminding that the Russian Federation broke the emerging consensus in the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and then Belarus announced agreement to deploy Russian nuclear weapons on its territory, he said that it means Moscow is preparing for more war.  He called on the Assembly to condemn all kinds of aggression which clearly violate the Charter of the United Nations, adding:  “However, to condemn is not enough.  Decisive action must be taken.  The politics of fear and coercion on a global scale must be stopped once and for all.”
ZUZANA ČAPUTOVÁ, President of Slovakia, highlighted that the challenges the world faces today have one common denominator — they are caused by humans.  “It thus falls to us to deliver human-made solutions.  The time for talking, discussion and promises is over,” she declared.  Calling on the General Assembly to start with the restoration of peace, she drew attention to the increase in conflict-related deaths.  The Russian Federation’s illegal full-scale invasion of Ukraine — Slovakia’s direct neighbour — has substantially contributed to this rise.  She lamented that for more than 570 days, innocent Ukrainian civilians have been killed, children kidnapped and towns and cities destroyed.  Noting that the infrastructure for the export of grain to those who need it is not spared from bombardments, she urged Moscow to let the grain leave Ukrainian ports.  She also underscored that the world needs action for peace from the Russian Federation as a permanent member of the Security Council.
Turning to climate change, she said that, because of human activity, cities are becoming warmer, oceans more acidic and land more arid.  “This summer gave us another preview of what we can expect if we sit on our hands,” she warned, regretting that the world is not doing enough.  As the emissions still exceed the targets set by the Paris Agreement, the worst-case scenario is avertable.  To this end, global emissions must peak before 2030.  Stressing that feasible, effective and low-cost options for mitigation and adaptation are already available, she called for accelerating the green transition.  Slovakia is doing its share, she stated, informing that 85 per cent of the country’s electricity is already produced with zero emissions.  In the next seven years, the country will use 5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to decarbonize its economy and increase the use of renewables.
In this vein, she announced that in 2030, Slovakia’s emissions will be 55 per cent lower than they were in 1990.  Slovakia will also continue to meet its obligations under the global climate finance commitment.  She went on to reiterate that crises, including climate change, hit hardest those least responsible for their creation — vulnerable populations, women, children and the poorest.  If peace and prosperity are to be achieved, these groups must be included.  In this regard, she expressed concern that the international community is not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. She underlined that today, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human dignity, freedom, justice and the rule of law require universal protection.  This is even more important given the impact of new technologies that unlock considerable potential in multiple areas.
Nevertheless, the evolution of these technologies sometimes overtakes the pace at which the human mind and emotions adapt, she observed, pointing to the deluge of disinformation on increasingly used social media as a testimony.  She reminded:  “Platforms have removed barriers across the globe, linking people like never before but they have also destroyed barriers that protected the rights and integrity of others.”  Insisting that any technology be used with dignity and rights of every individual in mind, she argued that we cannot postpone the democratic regulation of this space.  To this end, facts and science are essential, which the pandemic confirmed.  However, if humankind continues to build alternative truths and deepen distrust, the world will not be able to take the necessary actions.  Expressing hope for a different course of events, she spotlighted that for the young people of Slovakia, equality is the most important societal value.
RUMEN RADEV, President of Bulgaria, said that a “resurrected ghost of self-destruction”, as a result of the full-scale war in Europe, is a nightmare his generation wrongly believed would be a “bygone phase” in human history.  While the hopes for rearranging the broken societal and economic links brought some optimism post-pandemic, the war in Ukraine exacerbated crises and destroyed that optimism.  Also pointing to the erosion of democracy, human rights and the rise of authoritarianism, he said that the rules of the internationally-adopted world order — forged in the green-marble General Assembly Hall — are now vehemently contested. Reiterating his country’s condemnation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, he also expressed concern over Moscow’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The bombings of Kyiv’s port infrastructure and the navigation restrictions in the Black Sea led to escalation of global food insecurity in the Global South, where the price of war is particularly high.
Underscoring that human lives are equally precious around the globe, he called on parties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to resume direct negotiations conducive to the two-State solution.  He also noted that a political solution to Syria’s conflict is the only way ahead and reiterated Bulgaria’s support for Yemen’s unity and sovereignty.  While emphasizing the importance of preventing terrorist threats and irregular migration in Afghanistan, he also voiced support for the European path of the Western Balkan countries as a way of attaining regional stability. Bulgaria is a staunch supporter for further strengthening of global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, he added, calling for dialogue on confidence-building among nuclear weapon States.  Observing that Moscow’s intention to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus undermines strategic stability, he called on the Russian Federation to adhere to the Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races.
He went on to say that access to financing and strong partnerships with international financial institutions are key for sustainable development, also reporting that his country provides financial support to countries in need.  Welcoming the adoption of political declarations at three health summits during the high-level week, he said these documents will foster a one-health approach and strengthen national health systems.  Further, he called for decisive climate action and highlighted the need for reversing biodiversity loss.  To this end, he welcomed the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund.
He also highlighted that Bulgaria, as a co-Chair of the Group of Friends for Children and Sustainable Development Goals, advocates for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, while promoting the rights of people with disabilities and tackling discrimination and hate speech.  Additionally, in 2023 it has commemorated the eightieth anniversary of the rescue of more than 50,000 Jewish people during the Second World War.  “This remarkable episode of our modern history inspires us to continue efforts to affirm tolerance and understanding as core values of modern democracy,” he asserted.
SAULI NIINISTÖ, President of Finland, underscored the need to find solutions to the challenges facing the world and ensure that the global community is moving in the right direction.  The world has grown even more complicated, with global tensions running high and competition among great Powers accelerating.  Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity — the theme of this year’s session — must not remain empty rhetoric, he said, noting: “we need to put these words into practice”.  Various global challenges, including climate change and pandemics, cannot be solved by one country alone.  Additionally, the opportunities presented by new technologies are also best harnessed together, he said, citing the multilateral system as “the best means” to the challenges faced by the international community.  “As we strive to strengthen multilateral cooperation, all voices must be heard, particularly the critical ones,” he added.
Highlighting tremendous changes that brought about the rapid growth in the Global South, he said Asian, African and Latin American countries are now powerful geopolitical players, with the fastest growing and most populous economies.  On the large-scale war launched by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, he expressed support for the latter’s inherent right to self-defence, adding that its fight for freedom carries echoes of his own country’s history. “We, too, have fought for our freedom and independence against enemies far greater in size and paid a high price for it,” he recalled, warning against a world in which “the big subjugates the small”.  The war in Ukraine must not become one of the many protracted conflicts seen around the world today, he cautioned, adding that its territorial integrity is “in all of our interests”.  Bringing the war to a just end is not only essential to Ukrainians but it may also ease tensions on a wider scale.
Turning to international arms control architecture, he said important treaties have been abandoned and “what is left seems to be in jeopardy”.  In this context, rebuilding and strengthening arms control in the current international climate is difficult.  However, a world without mutually agreed rules and transparency is an unpredictable one, he said, noting that emerging technologies are further complicating the picture and the risks are mounting.  There are 100 ongoing conflicts worldwide and people in Afghanistan, Sudan and Yemen, inter alia, continue to face enormous humanitarian needs. “We should not lose sight of any of these emergencies,” he said, stressing the importance of prioritizing diplomacy and making full use of the United Nations.  Noting that climate change is a challenge that the global community cannot escape, he underlined the need to strengthen the collective ambition to reduce emissions.
MOHAMED IRFAAN ALI, President of Guyana, said that multilateralism remains the most effective approach to address challenges, especially climate change.  “We are all experiencing its devastating effects.  The difference, however, is our capacity to respond,” he said, adding that small island developing and low-lying coastal States are among the hardest hit and require adequate financing while the commitments by developed countries, including the pledge of $100 billion per year, remain unfulfilled. “As a country with the second highest forest cover per capita in the world, we know the importance of forests in mitigating the effects of climate change at the global level,” he stressed, highlighting that Guyana was issued 33.4 million tons of carbon credits under the first such programme in the world, having secured $750 million for the period 2016-2030.  However, he warned that about 900 million people in developing countries have no access to electricity and that global ambition of net zero by 2050 is not currently realistic.
Speaking about the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, he said that the existing financial architecture is incapable of addressing current global challenges and must be reformed.  By 2030, it is estimated that nearly 670 million people will suffer from undernourishment, he warned, adding that global agrifood systems must be urgently transformed.  Condemning the weaponization of food as an instrument of war, he said:  “We have noted that since the war began in Ukraine more than a year ago, the developed world provided about $220 billion in support to Ukraine.  The World Bank added more than $37.5 billion in emergency financing; almost $260 billion mobilized in less than two years.”  On the other hand, he continued, aid to the Palestinian people over 26 years amounted to $40 billion, Haiti received over $20 billion in aid for reconstruction and development over the past 60 years and African countries got $113 billion for 2015 and 2016 to fight hunger.  He said that Guyana unequivocally supports the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and remains in full solidarity with the people of Ukraine and what they justly require from the international community.  “However, I cannot overlook the disparity in the approach to other countries and regions of the world.  This must be corrected,” he emphasized, adding that the Russian Federation’s invasion must end and greater diplomatic efforts must be made to bring an end to the war.
Turning to regional issues, he said that the ongoing crisis is Haiti is of grave concern, therefore urgent and decisive action must be taken to secure a comprehensive solution.  He commended the offer by the Governments of Kenya and Rwanda to lead the multinational force in Haiti, as well as the offers by the Bahamas and Jamaica. He also called for the dismantling of the unacceptable embargo against Cuba, adding that the economic and political aggression along with the designation of Havana as a State sponsor of terrorism must come to an end.
Speaking about Venezuela’s efforts to undermine Guyana’s freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said that this issue is being dealt with by the International Court of Justice, as decided by the UN Secretary-General under the Geneva Agreement of 1966, and expressed confidence that his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will again be affirmed when the Court issues its final judgement.  He informed that just on 19 September, Guyana received a threatening message from Venezuela in the form of a communiqué attacking his country for putting certain oil blocks in its sovereign waters up for bid. As Guyana takes its place in January 2024 as a member of the Security Council, he pledged to work to fulfil the mandate of the Council.
ZORAN MILANOVIĆ, President of Croatia, highlighted that addressing the current crises requires safeguarding the role of the United Nations as the centre of global cooperation.  Efforts are also needed to reform the Security Council — the main instrument for peace and security.  Noting that time is running out to revive political commitments to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, he praised the stimulus in the form of Our Common Agenda.  Further, he expressed support for the reform of the global financial institutions, observing that they are increasingly unable to respond to the current challenges adequately and efficiently.  To this end, the world also needs to scale-up development and climate finance.
He went on to note that preventing conflicts is more cost-effective than resolving them and financing post-conflict reconstruction.  Conflict prevention should thus be at the centre of the New Agenda for Peace.  Croatia, as a Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission for 2023, strongly advocates its strengthening and enlarging of both its geographical and thematic scope.  He added that the Commission could review national conflict prevention strategies and help to mobilize resources for their implementation.  It should also work more closely with international financial institutions and regional actors.  In addition, the Commission could be enabled to establish United Nations civilian missions upon the request of countries concerned.  Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals, he informed that Croatia is, according to a recent report, among the top-ranked countries in their implementation and noted that it has a large natural heritage to preserve for future generations, he said.
On biodiversity, he stated that Croatia is committed to working jointly for the development and full implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework as well as to intensifying cooperation in protecting the marine environment and combatting plastic pollution.  In this vein, praising the adoption of the High Seas Treaty, he announced that his country is one of its first signatories and will ratify it as soon as possible.  He called on other countries to follow suit, so the Treaty can enter into force.  As a member of the European Union, Croatia has already pledged to contribute to making Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050.  This can turn current crises into a new chance for Europe’s economies.  As an example, he spotlighted the North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley project — based on decarbonization and clean industry.  Besides Croatia and Slovenia, it also encompasses the Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. 
To create a peaceful world that respects human rights and promotes social progress, more must be done to prevent atrocities and operationalize the responsibility to protect, he underscored.  Further, he reiterated Croatia’s support for combatting hate speech, advancing the rights of women and children, protecting minorities and abolishing the death penalty.  Regionally, Croatia continues to attach the utmost importance to its immediate neighbourhood in South-Eastern Europe.  In this regard, welcoming Bosnia and Herzegovina being granted status as a European Union candidate country, he argued for electoral reforms in that country to ensure a legitimate representation of all constituent peoples.  This is, in his view, essential for the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  He also encouraged the de-escalation of tensions between Pristina and Belgrade.  The parties “need to focus on normalization of relations and deliver on their commitments”, he stressed, calling for the universal recognition of Kosovo.
JOÃO MANUEL GONÇALVES LOURENÇO, President of Angola, said that almost 78 years after the founding of the Organization, it is still not possible to avoid the emergence of pockets of tension, which degenerate into open conflicts.  The management of interests at the global level in terms of security, science and technology and resources, still does not meet the interests of different nations and peoples.  “One cannot fail to recognize that the gap between developing and developed countries remains an unacceptable reality,” he said.  Because they are not adequately represented in a large part of the institutions of world governance, developing countries are not able to express their sensitivities and thus contribute to the formulation of solutions to their problems. “This situation generates anxiety and frustration of the most vulnerable populations who, by not having their expectations met, become easily permeable to negative influences,” he stressed.
In recent decades, many African countries have resolved conflicts, invested what they could in socioeconomic development and promoted the education of their citizens, he went on to say.  However, a lack of economic and social prospects in many countries creates fertile ground for the weakening of the continent’s fledgling democracies. “In Africa, we have tried to find ways out of the current state of affairs, such as the initiative to create the African Continental Free Trade Area,” he said.  However, it remains an unfortunate reality that many young Africans are forced to try to make their dreams come true outside of their continent, often embarking on dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean.
Angola aims to contribute to slowing down tensions in the Great Lakes region, he continued, reaffirming the need for adequate and predictable funding for efforts to fight terrorism on the continent.  “We are increasingly convinced of the existence of an invisible hand interested in destabilizing our continent, only concerned with expanding its sphere of influence,” he said.  The international community remains deeply concerned about the situation in the Sahel region, in the Horn of Africa, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.  The world must also not forget the suffering of the Palestinian people, let alone ignore the need to resolve the conflict in the Middle East, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In Europe, the war between the Russian Federation and Ukraine deserves attention and must be brought to an immediate end.
Reform of the Security Council should reflect the reality of the times, he emphasized.  Africa must be granted permanent membership on the Council.  He also stressed the need to comply with resolutions on the embargo against Cuba and the decades-long conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine.  “It is important to remember that in 2021, I took part in a Security Council meeting in this city to discuss the issue of lifting the arms embargo on the Central African Republic,” he further recalled.  Turning to climate change, he urged the international community to try to reduce polluting gases, deforestation and global warming.
GUILLERMO LASSO MENDOZA, President of Ecuador, noted his Government’s great strides in “transitioning from unsustainable production systems to a low emission circular economy”.  In January 2022, Ecuador expanded the protection of the Galapagos Islands.  “This decision represents the greatest step forward by my country towards the preservation of our incomparable biodiversity,” he stressed.  Together with Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama, Ecuador has created the largest cross-border reserve in the world, protecting 500,000 square kilometres, home to innumerable and unique species that use these migratory routes.  He expressed concern at the upcoming and “ever more likely El Niño phenomenon”, which could cause devastating flooding in Ecuador and the region.  “We appeal to the international community to consider risk mitigation measures,” he said.
Faced with alarming figures of chronic infant malnutrition, Ecuador has, in just 28 months, reduced the rate of malnutrition in infants under the age of two by 3.5 per cent, he went on to say.  This type of malnutrition has serious consequences on children, affecting their neurological development, their ability to learn, communicate, think and relate to others.  Ecuador has repurposed and equipped health centres; recruited more family medicine specialists, obstetricians and nurses; and hired 50,000 community workers who go into neighbourhoods to detect cases of malnutrition.  “Solutions don’t depend on how much money a State has, but rather, how much political will its leaders have,” he added.
Ecuador also strives to promote safe and responsible migration, he said.  “We are a country of origin, of destination, a transit country, and a country of return, and even of refuge,” he said.  Ecuador has hosted thousands of migrants of different nationalities.  Venezuelan citizens have reached Ecuador — fleeing hunger and authoritarianism.  “Our arms have been open wide to protect this population that is asking for refuge”, he said. Nonetheless, the open doors policy requires support of the international community.  On Ukraine, he called for a cessation of military aggression and compliance with the International Court of Justice.  “We have warned that this conflict not only inflicts pain and destruction on the people of Ukraine, but also worsens global food insecurity and destabilizes the global economy,” he stressed.
Turning to transnational organized crime, particularly drug trafficking, he said that his Government has beaten records in the confiscation of drugs.  In just two years, it has seized more than 500 tons — a figure that far exceeds that seized by previous Governments.  In 2022, the UN recognized Ecuador as the third country in the world in drug seizures, after the United States and Colombia.  Just a few weeks ago, Ecuador experienced a tragic event: the assassination of a presidential candidate.  Fernando Villavicencio was a clearsighted and brave Ecuadorian, who denounced the activities of organized crime and its links with political mafias.  Transnational organized crime is a corrupt and murderous system, which penetrates society and the State, which defies democratic stability, and which is progressing at great speed.  “If the enemy is able to multiply itself, States must also be able to multiply our efforts even more so,” he said.
EDGARS RINKĒVIČS, President of Latvia, said that the Russian Federation’s brutal invasion of its neighbour Ukraine runs counter to the United Nations fundamental principles to refrain from the use of force against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.  He stressed that blatant breach of these principles undermines the entire international system, especially if the aggressor is a nuclear-weapon State and a permanent member of the Security Council. “In 2008 and in 2014, the international community made a grave mistake by not responding to Russia’s aggression against Georgia and to the illegal annexation of Crimea.  It sent a wrong signal to Russia, allowing its aggressive imperial ambitions to advance,” he emphasized.  Underlining that the outcome of this war will dictate global security for years to come, he condemned the ongoing aggression against Ukraine, enabled by the regime of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.  In response to those who call for a ceasefire and peaceful dialogue, he said that only Kyiv can decide when to start negotiations about peace, as sustainable peace must be based on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He also urged the international community to continue to support Ukraine and its people, while assistance to Ukraine has already exceeded 1.3 per cent of Latvia’s GDP. 
He reminded that innocent civilians, including children, have been killed, and over 11 million people have been forced to leave their homes or flee Ukraine, and called on the United Nations to take a more active stand.  “We must ensure complete accountability for all crimes committed in Ukraine.  It means the responsibility of Russia as a State for violations of international law.  And it means individual liability for the most serious international crimes,” he said, commending the steps taken by the International Criminal Court to investigate atrocity crimes in Ukraine.  At the same time, as that Court or any other existing mechanism cannot exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression against Ukraine, every effort must be made to hold Russian Federation leadership and military personnel accountable, he stressed, reiterating the need to establish a special international tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine under the auspices of the UN.
He underscored that by blocking Ukraine’s exports and destroying its agricultural sector, Moscow has disrupted grain deliveries worldwide but claims to care about global food security.  “There is no doubt that Russia is directly responsible for the suffering of the people worldwide,” he said, condemning its single-sided termination of the Black Sea Initiative.  As Latvia cooperates with the World Food Programme (WFP) to improve food security worldwide, he urged the United Nations to resolve the removal of the remaining Russian-owned fertilizers from the territory of Latvia and deliver them to the countries in need as soon as possible.  He also announced that Riga’s development cooperation policy is becoming more global.  With support already provided to Ukraine and countries of the European Eastern Partnership and Central Asia, Latvia now extends cooperation projects to countries in Africa and recognizes the climate-induced challenges that small island developing States face, he said.
While the United Nations is not a perfect institution, it is the only truly global organization, uniting all sovereign States, and is especially important for smaller countries like Latvia.  “The inability of the Security Council caused by the abuse of the veto is a serious concern.  That is why Latvia supports efforts to make the Security Council more transparent and accountable for its inaction,” he stressed, adding that veto power was not created as a privilege but as a responsibility.  Calling for a more equitable representation of the regions on the Council, including African and small island countries, he said that determination to protect the fundamental values of the Charter of the United Nations guides Latvia’s candidacy for the Security Council elections in 2025.
YOON SUK YEOL, President of the Republic of Korea, recalled the determined decision of the first United Nations Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, who viewed the armed invasion against the Republic of Korea as a challenge to world peace.  Against this backdrop, he said that the war in Ukraine has deepened the division in values and ideologies within the international community.  Additionally, it has deepened the economic repercussions of the pandemic, causing a contraction in the global economy and leading to food and energy crises in many parts of the world.  In the face of today’s multifaceted global crises on an unprecedented scale, divides among countries are widening across various areas — including security, economy, technology, health, environment and culture.
Turning to the development divide, he said many countries around the world still lack essential infrastructure.  However, development is unattainable without basic infrastructure such as water and sewage systems to process and supply drinking water, and energy facilities to provide electricity and health-care facilities to treat the sick.  To narrow the development divide, countries with financial and technological capacities must assume responsibility.  Despite this year’s fiscal austerity measures, his Government has raised its official development assistance (ODA) budget plan for 2024 by 40 per cent, he reported, noting that the funds will be allocated to foster development cooperation tailored to the needs of Seoul’s partner countries.  The climate crisis is another challenge that exacerbates the economic divide between nations and impedes humanity’s sustainable development.  On this “boiling Earth”, extreme weather events such as heatwaves, torrential rains and typhoons have become the norm. Climate change is causing geopolitical shifts in agriculture and fisheries, worsening the crises in countries vulnerable to food shortages.
To assist countries vulnerable to climate change in reducing their carbon emissions and accelerating their transition to clean energy, Seoul will scale up its green development assistance.  In particular, it will contribute an additional $300 million to the Green Climate Fund.  Further, it plans to play a leading role in bridging the digital divide, utilizing its strengths in information and communications technology (ICT).  Citing the digital divide as “a major cause of economic divide”, he stressed that bridging it will be a positive attribute in resolving the challenges faced by the Global South.  The Republic of Korea will support the digital transformation of countries with limited digital penetration and utilization.  This, in turn, will enhance their citizens’ access to education, health care and financial services.  To support the creation of an international organization under the United Nations and provide concrete directions for the development of artificial intelligence governance, Seoul plans to host a “global AI forum”.
He highlighted that, in line with its commitment to the “Ukraine Peace and Solidarity Initiative”, his Government will implement a comprehensive support programme that encompasses security, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction.  Furthermore, it will actively support Ukraine’s reconstruction by providing $300 million in 2024, and a medium-to-long-term support package exceeding $2 billion. On Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes, he said they pose not only a direct and existential threat to his country, but also a serious challenge to peace in the Indo-Pacific region and across the globe.  Moreover, he warned that if Pyongyang acquires the information and technology necessary to enhance its weapons of mass destruction capabilities in exchange for supporting the Russian Federation with conventional weapons, the deal will be a direct provocation, threatening the peace and security of not only Ukraine but also his country.
EMOMALI RAHMON, President of Tajikistan, stated that the international community more than ever needs integration and trust to address the threats of terrorism, extremism, transnational organized crime, arms proliferation and climate change.  He admitted that, despite significant progress made on some Sustainable Development Goals, Tajikistan continues to face challenges to meet them by 2030. To accelerate progress, he called for at least $500 billion to developing, least developed and small island developing States annually, also expressing support for the reform of the international financial architecture to ensure stable and long-term financing of necessary initiatives.  Turning to climate change, he pointed out that his country, with 93 per cent of its territory covered by mountains, is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to its impact.  In Tajikistan, frequent climate-related disasters — landslides, mudflows, floods and draughts — result in human and infrastructure loss.
Tajikistan thus attaches particular importance to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, he said, spotlighting that his country is among the pilot ones to implement the Secretary-General’s Early Warnings for All initiative.  With more than 13,000 glaciers, 60 per cent of water resources in Central Asia emanate from Tajikistan.  Nevertheless, more than 1,000 glaciers have melted — this will have significant implications for the food security, water availability and ecosystems of the region and beyond, he warned.  Recalling the Assembly’s resolution on International Year of Glaciers’ Preservation, 2025, he also pointed to the successful outcomes of the 2023 United Nations Water Conference.  Further, he announced that Dushanbe will host the third high-level conference on Water Action in 2024 and the International Conference on Glaciers’ Preservation in 2025.  Using hydropower, Tajikistan produces 98 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources — ranking sixth in the world in this aspect.
He went on to note that, in Central Asia, conditions are currently conducive to strengthening regional integration.  “Such initiative will contribute to a stable atmosphere of peace, cooperation, sustainable development and prosperity in our region,” he declared, highlighting that this is directly linked to the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan.  As 97 per cent of Afghans live in poverty, he reiterated Tajikistan’s commitment to continue providing humanitarian assistance, appealing to the international community to follow suit.  The establishment of intra-Afghan dialogue and the creation of a truly inclusive Government is crucial for achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, he underscored.  In the context of increased drug trafficking, Tajikistan’s authorities seized more than 10 tons of narcotics on the border with Afghanistan over the past two years.  Besides tackling this threat, Tajikistan also continues to combat terrorism and violent extremism within the framework of its National Strategy for 2021-2025.
In this regard, the country intends to hold — in cooperation with the international community — the next international conference on countering terrorism and its financing in 2024.  “The efforts should also be focused on preventing the use of the Internet for radicalization, recruitment, and propaganda of extremism and violence,” he stressed, welcoming the adoption of the eighth review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  On solidarity and mutual understanding, he condemned insults to the religious sanctity of people, manifestations of discrimination, racial hostility as well as politicization of religious issues.  These undermine the very essence of the international community, he lamented.  As a co-sponsor of a General Assembly resolution on promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech, Tajikistan reiterates the importance of promoting dialogue and mutual understanding among civilizations for peace and harmony in the world, he emphasized. 
IRIS XIOMARA CASTRO SARMIENTO, President of Honduras, said that in 2022 she addressed the General Assembly as the first female President of her country, adding:  “I arose out of resistance in the streets, fighting the coup d’état that overthrew Manuel Zelaya Rosales — a democratically elected President.”  Pointing to greater economic growth, rescued public finances — through the cancellation of corrupt trust accounts — and reduced inflation, she said that the progress of her Government has been recognized by financial organizations.  Moreover, together with the National Congress, it has repealed the “secrets law” — a corruption instrument of the former regime — along with the law on employment and economic development zones, that has split Honduras in 17 areas shared between 25 economic groups.  Further, she has ordered and overseen the budget increase of the social sector to reduce poverty and improve education and health care.  She also reported on the return of the “historic” programme for free school enrolment, fuel subsidies and free energy for the poorest.
She recalled that in 2022, the United States accused the former President of Honduras for conspiring and organizing trafficking of thousands of tons of drugs and for leading a criminal organization, involving people from the “underworld” — State authorities, mayors, generals and police chiefs — some of whom have already been convicted.  Noting that “these assailants, who hijacked the State” are today conspiring against her Government, she said that they are organized in an “alliance of corrupt politicians and alleged civil society” with the aim of holding back the proposed structural changes.  “The Honduran people have given me a robust mandate to combat and dismantle the ‘narco State’ and public-private corruption that plundered and destroyed our institutions,” she stressed, recalling that after 13 years of dictatorship the country’s public debt level has increased sixfold.
She also reported that on 18 September she handed to the Secretary-General an official proposal to establish an international tribunal against corruption and impunity in Honduras to investigate cases of high-impact corruption networks, adding:  “This is the only way to clean up a State in which public institutions, the political class and public-private association have been infiltrated by organized crime.” Further, she spotlighted that in 2024 she will assume the pro tempore presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Central American Integration System.  Recalling that Latin America is not only the most unequal and poorest of regions, but is also one with the lowest economic growth and is the most technologically backwards, she emphasized:  “Only by supporting each other will we be able to move forward.” In this regard, she underscored the importance of promoting integration processes and advancing in customs union as well as social and environmental policies.
“Today the great economic interests are coming face-to-face in Ukraine”, she observed, noting that the poorest countries are the most affected by inflation, food shortages and high fuel prices.  Stating that the war in Ukraine must end, she underscored:  “We cannot live with the permanent threat of the conflict that might mean the end of our planet.”  Also emphasizing the need of terminating sanctions, piracy and confiscating the assets of one nation against the other, she condemned the “longstanding and cruel” blockade against Venezuela and Cuba and demanded the removal of the latter from the list of terrorist organizations.
ALAR KARIS, President of Estonia, said “we are different as humans, States and societies, but I’m sure that some things are universal — the simple wish for a better tomorrow.”  The world is facing intertwined crises reversing development gains, with attempts to bend, ignore or forget the international rules, leading to conflict, ethnic cleansing, and human rights violations in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other States. Turning to Ukraine, he cited the story of a woman named Anna, one of many who fled Kyiv for refuge in Estonia, while the Russian Federation continues to shamelessly destroy hospitals, kindergartens and grain storages.  Noting that Moscow invaded a sovereign country under fabricated pretexts, for neo-imperial and colonial aspirations, he asked:  “What is that great about colonizing another country?” The outcome of the war, he affirmed, will greatly determine the future world in which children will live. 
He called for Moscow’s political and military leadership to bear individual responsibility for launching the war of aggression, a crime against peace, and a misuse of the Security Council. “A lie is always a lie, no matter how nice it sounds,” he stressed.  Meanwhile, if impunity is allowed to prevail, the international community puts its virtues, values and moral norms in question, as the international response to the war has an existential significance for all.  In that context, he emphasized the need for Council reform while the world is out of joint, as that 15-member organ is “close to a dead end”, unable to act or make decisions on the biggest conflicts in the heart of Europe after the Second World War.  That paralysis has numerous global implications, including the inability to offer conflict resolution or address migration and food security. 
The world needs a Council that can fulfil its tasks, and give hope to those suffering under fear, aggression and violence, with those responsible facing justice even if they hold the right of veto.  He called for adjusting its structure and working methods — “and yes, this is possible” — to offer hope to those physically injured, mentally damaged, homeless, and starving boys and girls in Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.  He urged parties to show flexibility, abandon well-known and documented positions and “turn a blank page”.  Defining the central issue as use of the veto, he stressed that it should not exist if there is suspicion that the Member State using it may have acted against international law.  His delegation supports the proposal by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group to limit the veto right in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. 
Future composition of that organ, he affirmed, should always reflect a fair distribution between continents and regions, with small, medium and big States all represented.  In addition, it must be more transparent and open to immensely increase its efficiency, as the international community has a right to know what is discussed in the chamber.  Should any situation arise where the Council is unable to function as expected, he cited the positive development of the General Assembly’s newfound greater influence to successfully overcome use of the veto if required.  After two world wars in the previous century, the international community said never again.  “Do we need another world war to create a new, better world order that is up to its task?” he asked; or are Member States wise enough to use international law to solve conflict and maintain peace and security. 
AZALI ASSOUMANI, President of Comoros, said he wished to express — as Chairperson of the African Union — the voice of all African States, who believe in a fairer, more effective multilateralism that can help bring about a better life for the continent and the entire world.  To accomplish this, an in-depth reform of the United Nations system is required, and Africa — where 3.8 billion people will live by the end of the century — has the right to be permanently represented on the Security Council in line with the Ezulwini Consensus.  “It is a question of equity,” he stressed.  He then turned to the numerous challenges Africa is facing, including widespread food insecurity despite the continent’s vast arable land and plentiful, competent labour.  Climate change and numerous continental conflicts compound this situation — as does the Russian Federation-Ukraine war, which has brought in its wake disrupted grain and fertilizer supplies and unprecedented inflation.
Pointing out that Africa remains a major importer of agricultural goods — which contributes to a sizeable shortfall in trade balances — he underlined the need for partnerships between African Governments, development bodies and the private sector to effectively resolve this challenge in a lasting manner. Africa’s partners must also support the transfer of expertise and technology to promote agricultural development and produce goods locally — thus adding value and helping to combat shortages and famine.  Further, there is a need to strengthen the fight against climate change, as the world’s people are living through frequent disasters that devastate economies, social infrastructure and agriculture.  Beyond numerous human losses, he noted that the damage resulting from these catastrophes requires rebuilding, the cost of which “is not always something our countries can sustain”.  He therefore called on the international community to promote communal approaches, structured to meet these disasters on a large scale, to provide people the support they need to recover.
He also called for strengthening the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), along with a new urban agenda to better support African cities that are full of potential, but very vulnerable to climate change.  Turning to the Sahel — seriously affected by terrorism since 2010 — he underlined the need for the international community to urgently work with African States to stabilize the region.  He observed that, on this planet, “crises are very easily imported”.  In addition to terrorism, Africa faces a resurgence of anti-constitutional changes that undermine democracy, peace, security, stability and socioeconomic development.  For its part, the African Union has implemented sanctions against those responsible and has demanded a rapid return to constitutional order in the countries concerned.  He underscored that “political life worthy of its name is not possible without respecting electoral timetables and legitimate institutional mechanisms, which undergird a democratic public life”.
He went on to spotlight the African Continental Free Trade Area, stating that he, as African Union Chairperson, will use this tool to create needed wealth and move towards industrialization so that Africa ceases to be “a simple provider of raw materials”.  This common market will also stimulate technology transfer and promote investment in a market of more than 1 billion people.  He also recalled the “Comorian nature of the Île de Mayotte”, spotlighting a dialogue with France to find a solution to this dispute in the interests of both countries.  Detailing past peaceful transitions of power in his country, he said that Comoros, on 26 May 2024, will once again “celebrate the political maturity” of its people as the inauguration of its next President will “symbolize the deep-rootedness and strength of our democracy”.
LUIS RODOLFO ABINADER CORONA, President of the Dominican Republic, urged the international community to “take up the issue of Haiti at the highest level of priority with permanent monitoring”.  He called on the Security Council to urgently authorize a United Nations-backed security mission with a multinational force to assist the Haitian National Police, as requested by the Government and Secretary-General.  He condemned the construction of an illegal diversion canal in Haitian territory by a small group of private individuals to extract water from the Dajabón River, in violation of border treaties between the two countries.  Warning that the project risks flooding an industrial park and harming water access for hundreds of farmers, he stressed that his Government has been forced to take forceful measures, including closing the border with Haiti to guarantee security and national interests, as well as protect the country’s rivers, environment and agricultural production.  “We do not seek or desire confrontation with the Haitian people”, he added, “but we face uncontrollable actors who foment insecurity.”
He urged all countries considering playing a role to act with determination, because “the problem of Haiti” is in the hands of the international community and is no longer just in Haiti.  Answering Haitian requests for assistance by sending a multinational force would keep with the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter and guarantee peace in accordance with international law.  He commended efforts by leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to reach a political agreement for the greatest possible legitimacy and acceptance of a multinational force, as well as the implementation of free, fair and transparent elections.  “For centuries of often difficult coexistence with the Haitian people”, he continued, “the Dominican Republic has given clear signs of untiring solidarity.”  However, there can never be “a Dominican solution to the Haitian problem”, and he reiterated his responsibility to defend the interests of the Dominican people.
As a developing economy with a negative carbon footprint, the Dominican Republic is incentivizing the use of renewable energies, he noted.  At the same time, the country still has significant dependence on fossil fuels, and “oil is still important to us.”  He called for a financial mechanism to guarantee the stability of crude oil prices for low- and middle-income importing countries.  Moreover, he called for the adoption of the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for all developing countries and implementation of the Loss and Damage Fund to financially support the most vulnerable to adapt to climate change. He warned that the massive proliferation of sargassum seaweed is devouring Caribbean coasts — including along the United States and Mexico — and has serious economic and environmental impacts, especially on tourism that represents up to 75 per cent of some Caribbean economies.  While the Dominican Republic has created a multisectoral roundtable on the issue, he called on developed countries to contribute to the solution.
On financing for development, he urged for the creation of a concessional mechanism for middle-income countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.  Reiterating the Secretary-General’s past statement that the international financial system is broken, he called for in-depth reform of the international financial architecture that can benefit all countries equitably.  Furthermore, a pillar of his Government’s commitment to achieve a fairer social contract is to fight against corruption and defend human rights, reflected in the Dominican Republic’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council for 2024 to 2026.  Ultimately, his Government is firmly committed to building a model of inclusive human development that is just and sustainable, and the international community must see twenty-first century calamities as opportunities that compel all countries to work together.
MAIA SANDU, President of the Republic of Moldova, urged the international community to continue supporting Ukraine as that country, Moldova, Europe and the free world face an external assault on their values. “But countries like mine haven’t broken free from imperial chains only to be brought back into servitude,” she said.  While the Republic of Moldova does not face an imminent military threat, each day it counters the Russian Federation’s hybrid assault as it works with corrupt crooks to destabilize the country.  This hybrid toolbox includes energy blackmail, support for separatism, sponsoring mass anti-government protests, cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns. “They also tried to overthrow our democratically elected government.  But each time, they have failed,” she said, adding another attempt will undoubtedly be made during upcoming elections.  Many countries in Europe are facing the same foreign interference in their democratic processes. “This hybrid assault is conducted by those who oppose not just our democracy, but all liberal democracies.  We must stay vigilant.  And we must stand united,” she said.
The Republic of Moldova has preserved peace across all of its regions, including the breakaway Transnistrian region, where Russian troops are stationed illegally and where concerns about human rights violations are deeply worrying, she said.  Her Government remains committed to a peaceful resolution and calls for the unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces. To build resilience, the country has moved from relying solely on Russian gas to a mix of energy sources and backup storage as it builds electricity lines to Europe, invests in energy efficiency and purses renewable sources.  Noting that the true measure of a democracy’s success rests on its ability to deliver a better life and real economic benefits to its citizens, she said strengthening the country’s economy as war rages across the border is a daunting challenge.  “But we are determined,” she added. 
Small and medium-sized enterprises can now access funds to grow; digital public services are helping to cut red tape; the European Union market is open to exports of the country’s fruit and vegetables. Inflation is down to 10 per cent from a peak of 35 per cent last October and a major ratings agency has upgraded the country’s outlook to stable.  The Republic of Moldova is also comprehensively reforming its justice system and redoubling efforts to defeat corruption and organized crime.  She thanked Member States for imposing sanctions on fugitive oligarchs who at one time captured the country.  She pointed to its improvement, by 24 places, on corruption perception measured by the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, and its advancement on the Rule of Law Index, part of the World Justice Project, by 14 places since 2020.  Economic progress, improving security and reinforcing its democracy are part of the Republic of Moldova’s journey towards membership in the European Union, which is the only way to protect the country’s liberty, peace and democracy. 
She noted the Republic of Moldova’s contribution to regional and global security, such as Moldovan servicemen working with United Nations peacekeeping missions.  The enlargement of the European Union is the sole path to ensure the region stays anchored in the free world and delivers better lives for its citizens.  “It will also demonstrate the union’s commitment to peace — the very reason the EU was built,” she said, adding that the success or downfall of one democracy resonates globally. “When one thrives, it inspires hope in others; when one falters, it risks a domino effect,” she said. “Today, the fight for democracy anywhere is a fight for democracy everywhere. And in this interlinked fight for democracy, we will prevail.”
JULIUS MAADA BIO, President of Sierra Leone, said that his country’s policy direction resonates with this year’s General Assembly theme of rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity.  Providing an overview of his Government’s achievements in his first five-year term, he cited fighting corruption, abolishing the death penalty, increasing education funding by 22 per cent and providing tuition-free access to all school age children at the primary and secondary levels. He further highlighted his Government’s action on gender issues, with its commitment to and recognition of 18 November as the World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence. Under the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act of 2022, 30 per cent of elected and appointed seats are compulsorily slated for Sierra Leonean women.  He further gave a forecast of his five-pillar-based second term to cover food security, human capital development, youth empowerment, technological advancement and public service reform.
Calling on Member States to uphold the United Nations Charter in order to foster international cooperation and urging accelerated action on the Sustainable Development Goals, he stated that “the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development isn’t merely an outline; it is a solemn pact we’ve entered, committing to crafting a world steeped in peace and prosperity”.  He spotlighted the rising spate of insecurity and coups in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region and joined his voice to regional and international calls against illegitimate changes in Governments of the region, stressing that “while we emphasize the importance of dialogue, we can’t ignore a crucial reality:  the ongoing threats to our Continent’s constitutional stability are signs of deeper problems”.  He proffered educational and human capital development measures such as job creation, poverty alleviation and government industry support as tools to successfully combat the current state of things.
Echoing the unequivocal dissent of ECOWAS towards any extra-constitutional changes of Government, he said they “threaten the stability of individual nations and the fabric of our collective African identity”.  Ongoing threats to the continent’s constitutional stability are signs of deeper problems, ranging from past and present injustices to the burdens of poverty, widespread unemployment and discrimination.  “Our duty is clear:  We must lift our people from poverty,” he said.  “Together, we must envision an Africa where our Governments are not removed by unconstitutional means — not because they forcefully prevent them, but because the underlying causes for such challenges no longer exist”.  He instituted a National Electoral Systems Review Committee to address historic challenges to his country’s electoral process and strengthen electoral integrity. He regretted a certain Member State’s introduction of unilateral coercive measures, including visa restrictions, on some Sierra Leonean citizens in the aftermath of the 24 June multi-tier elections.  Member States must respect the sovereignty and political independence of one another, he stressed, urging dialogue and open channels of communication on all matters.
As Sierra Leone assumes a non-permanent seat for the Security Council’s 2024-2025 session after 53 years, he expressed its commitment to upholding international peace and security, with a bias for insecurity and democratic governance ideals in West Africa and the Sahel, stating that “our goal remains to thwart the seeds of conflict before they sprout, to ensure sustainable resources for African Union-led peace operations and to silence the guns decisively and forever in Africa”.  He also called for reforming the Council, particularly echoing Africa’s demands for two permanent and five non-permanent seats. He requested equitable, timely access for Sierra Leone on climate financing and concluded by calling for global solidarity in confronting the issues of our day, with special attention on the triple planetary crises of pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss.  “The multifaceted crises challenging our global community demand unified action. For our collective strength is determined by our most vulnerable segments,” he stressed.
ALBERT II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, noted that respect for the environment and wildlife on land and at sea, and support for science have been fundamental priorities for the Princes of Monaco throughout the centuries.  “Today, what was a relentless unfailing commitment has become a duty for our survival,” he stressed — which is why Monaco signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and that on the fight against desertification.  Among Indigenous or island peoples, the sea is a being in its own right, he recalled, stressing that the international community must not waste another moment:  “extreme climatic events” are already causing the suffering of millions of people and require urgent action.  Acidification of the ocean and the rise in sea level are phenomena that constitute threats to the very existence of coastal communities in many countries. 
Therefore, the international community must seize the opportunity to correct the trajectory in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C — requiring profound and sometimes difficult changes to lifestyles and collective organizations.  His Government will contribute €3.3 million to the reconstitution of the Green Climate Fund for 2024-2027, an increase of 10 per cent compared to the previous period, while Monaco is already the first donor per capita.  He noted that major achievement in outer space should be accomplished for the oceans; while countries are looking for the presence of water on the planet Mars, it took a generation for the United Nations to hold a new International Conference on Climate and Water
last March.  The youth of all countries place before the United Nations a crucial responsibility:  ensuring the preservation of the air they breathe, the earth upon which they grow, and the seas and oceans which are the cradle of humanity and the key to its survival.
He further recalled that conflicts also seriously damage the environment and represent an additional obstacle to the achievement of the Goals.  It has been almost 600 days since Moscow made the decision, in violation of international law, to launch large-scale aggression against Ukraine.  As in all conflicts, fighting and bombings pollute soil and water with toxic substances; protected natural areas have been destroyed, and damage to critical infrastructure increases the risk of polluted drinking water and the spread of disease.  Likewise, he expressed alarm that in the twenty-first century, health-care personnel are regularly attacked, and health infrastructures are attacked in different conflict zones.  Reiterating the call for the protection of these professionals and civilian populations, he urged the international community to learn from the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen global governance and build strong and resilient health-care systems. 
Emphasizing that the quest for innovation is inherent to human nature, he said it deserves support when it is “geared towards improving the lives of our people”. Although fascinated by the benefits of digital technologies that simplify daily lives, the international community cannot neglect their dangers.  artificial intelligence often proves to be more efficient and reliable than humans in many tasks; however, “it can be the language of Aesop” — both the best and the worst things for humankind.  Cyberattacks using artificial intelligence are already targeting critical infrastructure like hospitals and United Nations humanitarian aid operations, while the security and arms industry exploit these techniques, raising potential ethical problems:  can humanity let a machine decide on the life or death of a human being?  He therefore welcomed all efforts aimed at developing a high-level advisory body within the United Nations to work on the international governance of artificial intelligence.
GABRIEL BORIC FONT, President of Chile, underscoring a “firm conviction that democracy is memory and future”, recalled the details surrounding the 11 September 1973 coup d’état in Chile that his country recently commemorated, 50 years on.  While some countries at the time were betting on instability, international organizations — such as the United Nations — played a fundamental role in defending human rights and democracy.  Chile has “come a long way since then”, he noted, attributing its progression to learning lessons from the past.  Through that learning, it is possible to envision future challenges, and he stressed that “a coup d’état is never inevitable” as democracy always offers alternatives.  Another lesson, he said, is that human rights must be defended in all places at all times — “whatever the political colour of the Government that undermines them”.
He said that Chile has learned that democracy is vulnerable, fragile and not guaranteed; that violence is not acceptable as a method of political action; and that dialogue must always be prioritized among those with different views.  Even at moments of great political turmoil, the international community must come together to put people ahead of differences.  He also underlined the need to stop the advance of totalitarianism and to confront the disinformation that is corroding democracies from within. Democracy must be able to achieve results, he underscored, because when institutions fail — or are too slow — the resulting corruption, organized crime and inequality lead to a lack of trust among people.  Looking after democracy means tackling peoples’ frustrations, yearnings and needs, and the collective interest, he stressed, must always be put ahead of that of individuals — particularly those with power, “including ourselves as the governing class”.
He also urged strict respect for human rights, denouncing the persecution of all those with thoughts or ideas different from those of the Ortega Government in Nicaragua.  Further, unilateral sanctions in Venezuela are not improving the lives of the people there and, to ensure free elections in that country, the United States must lift the measures it has imposed.  The same applies to the sanctions long applied against Cuba.  He also condemned the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, emphasizing that small- and medium-sized countries such as Chile depend on international law for defence in potential future conflicts.  “Today it is Ukraine, in the future it could be any of us,” he observed.  Turning to climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss — “problems of today, not tomorrow” — he called for rapid action to accelerate transitions to change consumption and establish new rules to meet these demanding challenges.
Further, he called on countries with the greatest industrial activity to assume their full responsibilities to respect the environment and show solidarity with those suffering the most from the devastating effects of climate change.  Also noting that Chile signed the agreement concerning the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, he offered Valparaíso as a headquarters for the treaty’s Secretariat. Additionally, he called for the creation of multilateral consensus and an ethical framework for the development and use of new technology such as artificial intelligence.  While societies must progress, they must do so “in a responsible way”, he said.
KHURELSUKH UKHNAA, President of Mongolia, expressed full support for international efforts toward disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, noting that Mongolia declared its territory free of nuclear weapons more than three decades ago.  For the eighth time, Mongolia hosted this year the International Conference of the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asian Security, a significant platform to strengthen confidence-building measures and to establish regional peace and security.  Highlighting Mongolia’s deployment of more than 20,000 peacekeepers over the past 20 years, he reaffirmed United Nations peacekeeping as an essential instrument to maintain international peace and security by halting and preventing armed conflicts, alleviating humanitarian crises, and fostering environments conducive to social development.  Furthermore, in line with Mongolia’s organization in 2022 of an international conference on women in peacekeeping, he emphasized the meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping operations and the need to strengthen the role of women at all levels for peaceful conflict resolution.
Regarding digital technology, he said the rapid advancement of new tools is unlocking new prospects for global development, but also reshaping the landscape of threats that jeopardize world peace and security, including terrorist attacks and their financing, money laundering, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  It is vital for countries to refine an international legal framework, and his Government fully supports establishing a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes.  Additionally, commending the General Assembly for convening three high-level meetings on health issues, he called on Member States to comprehensively strengthen the World Health Organization (WHO)’s role and broaden its activities.   Mongolia fully supports developing the WHO convention, agreement, or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. Such an international legal document will be “of great importance” for timely and equitable access to — and the distribution of — pandemic-related vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics.
On climate, Mongolia is implementing national movements for “One Billion Trees” and “Food Supply and Security,” as well as a World Export Development Forum to further develop green and inclusive trade and economic relations.  He called on other Governments to take urgent measures to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, heed the guidance of scientists, raise public awareness, and regulate the use of resources.  Mongolia was one of the first to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Finance Taxonomy to support climate financing.  More broadly, there is an urgent need to develop a global plan to finance the SDGs.  While Mongolia has made notable progress on 15 of the goals, the country needs to spend an additional 18 per cent of annual gross domestic product to achieve the targets by 2030.
In particular, Mongolia endeavours to protect the interests of landlocked developing countries, including by setting up a group of such countries in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).  He also underscored the importance of strengthening research capacities of the International Think Tank of the Landlocked Developing Countries to adopt a renewed development framework for them for the next decade.  Also, noting the seventy-fifth anniversary this year of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he underscored the shared goal of building a world free of gender inequality.  Women and female leaders play a critical role in the security and development of humankind.  Following Mongolia’s organization of the Female Foreign Ministers’ Meeting last year, he proposed also convening the World Women’s Forum in Mongolia in 2024.
MOHAMED OULD CHEIKH EL GHAZOUANI, President of Mauritania, said the world today is going through acute and overlapping crises that affect everyone, even if the impact is not equal.  “Our fates are intertwined and we need to accelerate the achievement of the Global Goals,” he said, adding the pace of inclusivity has been below expectations.  Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in many developing countries is slowing and has even stopped as nations face increasing unemployment, public health and food crises, inflation, terrorism and armed conflicts, accompanied by environmental deterioration.  Yet even with this grim picture, he said he remains hopeful that the Global Goals can be implemented as new pathways for multilateral cooperation are created and more effective mechanisms to mobilize financing for sustainable development are found.  This Assembly session is very important as it allows Member States to take a halfway look and develop ways to accelerate the process, he stressed.
In Mauritania, the implementation of the Global Goals is integral to its development strategy, he said.  Despite regional and international challenges, the country has successfully countered poverty and strengthened social and health benefits as it moves towards universal health coverage.  The Government has adopted structural reforms to create a more diversified economy that can boost employment, improve agricultural output and create food security.  The country posted economic growth of 6.4 per cent last year as it expands health services. Public access to drinking water, for example, is now about 72 per cent.  Access to electricity in urban areas has reached 91.84 per cent with a 53 per cent average throughout the country. Renewable energy accounted for 34 per cent of the country’s energy mix in 2020 and the Government is aiming for a 50 per cent share in 2030.
Turning to climate change and desertification, he said the upcoming Twenty-eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) is a source of great hope and he called on industrialized States to maintain their commitments.  Mauritania remains committed to the Great Green Wall initiative, which aims to fight drought in the Sahel and Africa.  To improve the lives of its citizens, the Government has implemented youth training programmes to help young people enter the labour market and reject the pull of terrorism.  It is helping move women into greater participation in all areas of daily and public life and giving all children a quality education.  In addition, it is strengthening the rule of law, fighting human rights violations and combatting contemporary forms of slavery as it develops mechanisms to counter resistance to reforms.
As chairman of the Group of Five for the Sahel, he is committed toward greater regional and international security in an insecure environment.  This includes upholding international treaties and support for all just causes.  He reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to create an independent State with its capital in East Jerusalem, as affirmed in relevant Council resolutions.  He called for peaceful solutions in Libya, Yemen and Syria and an end to hostilities in Sudan.  He condemned the phenomena of Islamophobia, which sows division and hatred between the West and Islamic countries.  He called for a negotiated solution to the conflict in Ukraine.  Much work is needed to attain the Global Goals and Mauritania needs resources and greater levels of investments, he stressed.  Further, he called for the resolution of developing countries’ debt by reforming the development debt system and greater support for the most vulnerable countries through multilateral cooperation.  Member States must work together to reform the United Nations so it can advance in a balanced way to solve crises and build trust in the Organization.
GEORGE MANNEH WEAH, President of the Republic of Liberia, while contextualizing this year’s assembly within the world’s political, security and environmental challenges, underscored the importance of promoting global security and rebuilding trust, especially in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals with which development assistance projects must necessarily be aligned.  His country is committed to the 2030 SDGs Agenda, particularly as they are in consonance with its domestic Flagship National Development Plan — the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development.  He also expressed concerns about the dangerous increase in the activities of armed non-State actors, threats of nuclear escalation, and extreme weather conditions, stating that “these challenges continue to serve as obstacles to our quest for a safe and peaceful world”.
Noting the importance that the seventy-eighth Assembly places on global health, as evident in the number of high-level meetings dedicated to health issues, he outlined areas where his country has made remarkable progress, including reduction in maternal mortality, access to health care and education, boosting gender parity in school enrolment and strides in infrastructural development.  He underscored the need for global concerted action in addressing “challenges aimed at providing basic services to all peoples”, particularly throwing weight behind the Secretary-General’s proposed SDG stimulus plan and calls for a $500 billion per year sustainable development fund for developing countries.
He reminisced about his first address to the assembly five years ago, when he commented on the peaceful elections that had just been held, stating that, in a similar manner, elections are scheduled to be held in a few weeks, on 10 October, and will provide “an opportunity to sustain the gains made in our reconstruction and development processes”.  He pointed to his Government’s plans to ensure the conduct of peaceful, fair, credible and transparent elections, especially on the heels of the signing of the 2023 Farmington River Declaration by all political actors to continually promote peace.
On global extreme climate conditions and natural calamities, he harped on the need for support to be given to developing countries in building resilience and surmounting these challenges, stressing that “it is therefore our collective responsibility to urgently prioritize addressing the climate crisis as we strive to reach a target of 64 per cent reduction in carbon emission”.  He further commended the Secretary-General for the New Agenda for Peace targeted at the “triple crises of disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution destroying our planet”.  He expressed his nation’s solidarity in upholding the Agenda and also pledged his country’s commitment to protect the planet, promote peace and prevent conflicts, adding that this would only be possible through cooperation with government and non-government stakeholders.
FÉLIX-ANTOINE TSHISEKEDI TSHILOMBO, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, emphasized that the African people often do not understand the equivocal attitude, the double standards, ambiguities and procrastinations of the UN and particularly the Security Council in certain serious political and security crises which have been plaguing Africa — sometimes for decades.  This is the case of the forgotten Western Sahara crisis which has driven apart Algeria and Morocco, and that of Mozambique, the victim of deadly terrorist attacks for a decade.  He further cited the Sahel-Saharan region, where UN troops are withdrawing, leaving behind the memory of unfinished business, even though they embodied all the hopes of liberation of the people of those countries, caught in the clutches of jihadism.  Sudan has been bogged down in a deadly civil war pitting soldiers loyal to the President against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.  The international community, he deplored, is almost indifferent to the Sudanese tragedy.
Turning to the withdrawal of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), he stressed that after more than two decades, it is time for his country to take full control of its destiny.  While grateful to the international community and the UN for their support, he deplored that the peacekeeping missions deployed have not succeeded in confronting the rebellions and armed conflicts which are tearing the country apart.  He has instructed the Government to begin discussions with UN authorities to accelerate and move up the MONUSCO withdrawal deadline from December 2024 to December 2023, further reiterating its request to the Security Council to sanction all natural and legal persons involved in war crimes and against humanity.  He welcomed the United States sanctions just imposed on Rwanda for its support for the M23 terrorist group, a proxy of Rwanda, and one of its senior officials involved in criminal activities in the country.
On the environmental crisis, he cited the African Climate Summit held in Nairobi under the joint leadership of the African Union and Kenya from 4 to 7 September — a very timely initiative which reflects Africa’s determination to actively participate in the treatment of this vital issue and to now count as a heavyweight in the solution to global warming and the greener and more responsible economies of the future.  The Summit further reminded rich polluters of a commitment made in 2009, but not yet honoured to date, to provide $100 billion in climate financing.  Urging the United Nations and the entire international community to pay particular attention to the legitimate demands of the continent, he called for the creation of a fair carbon market and incentive prices while strengthening the effectiveness of climate financing.  He also noted the importance of Council reform to include two permanent African members.
While it is no secret that his country is one of the African States most troubled by sexual violence against women, particularly due to decades of armed conflict, he pointed to mechanisms emplaced including the National Fund for Reparations for Victims of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and Victims of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Humanity.  The Government works tirelessly to change the way men view women, in particular by removing societal structures that create barriers to the development of women as well as power dynamics that underlie male-female relationships.  Pointing to upcoming general elections in the country, he affirmed that invitations have already been extended to international institutions and non-governmental organizations specializing in the matter to mandate their electoral observation missions to support the process and help the Congolese state consolidate its young democracy.  He further called for the removal of sanctions placed on Zimbabwe.
MSWATI III, Head of State of Eswatini, said that it is increasingly evident that sustainable development “is not just a noble aspiration” in a world faced with complex challenges; rather, it “is an imperative for the survival and well-being of our planet and its inhabitants”.  Just as the founders of the United Nations once came together to “address the challenges of their time for the benefit of all, it is now our responsibility to stand together and confront those we face today”, he urged. Expressing concern over global conflicts and unconstitutional changes of Government in several African States, he also spotlighted natural disasters that have claimed thousands of lives in Libya, Morocco and elsewhere.  Additionally, he encouraged efforts underway to find a political solution to the matter regarding the Western Sahara within the parameters of Security Council resolution 2654 (2022).
He went on to report that Eswatini’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals has been impacted — like that of all other Member States — by multiple shocks at both the global and national levels. However, the country is committed to achieving these targets, and he noted that Eswatini has been ranked in the top five countries in terms of economic growth by the World Bank, with an increase in GDP of about 7.8 per cent.  It also placed sixth on the 2022 Africa Industrialization Index.  However, recent global challenges have negatively impacted Eswatini’s ability to provide social services — including health and education — but, despite this, it has achieved significant reductions in the maternal mortality ratio and HIV prevalence among adults aged 15 to 49.  Other progress includes increased opportunities for learning; increased access to electricity, water and sanitation services; an improved literacy rate among adults aged 15 and above; and increased enrolment in primary education.
He also said that Eswatini’s unique model of democracy accounts for its rich cultural heritage and traditional African values, in that it is grounded in respect, consensus and community support through traditional structures.  It is a system based on individual merit — where candidates are nominated from their communities to stand for elections in constituencies to which they are accountable — he said, adding that the electorate “expects members of parliament to meet as colleagues rather than combatants”.  Emphasizing that his country was hit hard by COVID‑19, he said that, despite progress in reducing poverty and inequality, “they remain high”. While Eswatini continues to battle with high unemployment — especially among youth — it has, with the support of the United Nations, launched a youth-empowerment programme.  And while the country is highly dependent on external sources of income, the Government continues to implement structural reforms to improve the business environment, diversify the economy and foster inclusive growth.
Further, he stressed the need to re-evaluate the global financial architecture.  Interest rates must be addressed in a way that is fair and beneficial for developing nations, and Member States must develop innovative financing strategies to ensure that implementation reaches those most left behind.  Adding a call for Taiwan to be included in the United Nations system, he observed that this would not only strengthen global cooperation and partnership, but would also “emphasize the principle of ensuring that no one is left behind”.
DAVID KABUA, President of the Marshall Islands, reiterated his call for the world to declare war on climate change, stressing that “our very existence as a people and nation is threatened.”  Warning that “the world’s equilibrium has been upset by humanity’s insatiable greed for the accumulation of materialistic wealth and possessions,” he stated that the Pacific small island developing States are “large ocean nations” first.  While the oceans are their lifeblood, economic future, and food security, much of the world has used oceans as dumping grounds or resource baskets from which to take at will and without consequence.  He called for the establishment of an international financing facility to support small island developing States and low-lying atoll nations during and after natural disasters, as well as for insulation from external shocks — from energy and supply chain disruptions to hyperinflation and pandemics. He urged donors to deliver on existing commitments and an ambitious roadmap that phases out fossil fuels.
Moreover, he stated that the United States has not fulfilled its obligations to the Marshall Islands after nuclear testing in the 1940s and 1950s.  Although United States President Harry Truman stated that people removed and relocated for nuclear testing “will be accorded all rights” that are normal constitutional rights of citizens, these obligations “remained unfulfilled.”  The Marshall Islands has continued negotiations with the United States to extend its relationship of free association, but “difficult issues” remain and need to be resolved.  He expressed cautious optimism that agreements will be finalized soon, but stressed that the Marshallese people require that nuclear issues be addressed.  He also affirmed the recent statement by Pacific Islands Forum foreign ministers regarding the release of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant, expressing continued vigilance and concern.
Regarding Taiwan, he underscored that the United Nations “will never be whole and complete without the meaningful participation of the 23 million people of Taiwan” in the UN system’s specialized agencies. “For too long,” he continued, “the UN bureaucracy has stuck to a wrongful misinterpretation of Resolution 2758 and has used politically influenced conclusions to exclude any clear engagement” with Taiwanese people and their vibrant democracy.  “We must have the courage” to recognize the present reality and “relegate this outdated dogma to the vaults of history.” Additionally, recognizing the intense rise of global tension and threat of wider conflict, he maintained that “politics must never blind the need for accountability, not only in Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine, but everywhere, without exception.”
Highlighting the Marshall Islands’ candidacy for the Human Rights Council from 2025 to 2027, he expressed firm commitment to strong and credible action to advance human rights.  He called on every nation in the room, including the Marshall Islands, to do more to deliver.  “Every nation gathered in this hall bears a vital responsibility to protect — not overstep — the voices of the most vulnerable.”  In addition to climate change and “global boiling,” he encouraged the United Nations to declare war on racism, injustices, the unequal distribution of wealth, and poverty.
MOKGWEETSI E. K. MASISI, President of Botswana, said the world is facing a plethora of persisting global challenges, including the war in Ukraine and its associated geopolitical tensions and impact on the global economy, challenges relating to climate change and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The inadequate progress on the Global Goals is a distressing reality.  Regarding Global Goal 5 (Gender Equality), which uses representation in positions of power and leadership as one of its indicators, he said the United Nations has not done badly except for the Secretary-General position.  “Would you not agree with me that the time is now to have a female Secretary-General?” he asked.  The business-as-usual approach to addressing the challenges hindering the Global Goals must be transcended.  It is imperative for the United Nations system, international financiers, the private sector and civil society to forge a collective front and refocus efforts to place the Global Goals back on track.  “To this end, the recent SDG Summit and its Political Declaration could not have come at a better time,” he added.
Regarding global discussions on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, he said Botswana is building capacity to manufacture vaccines for humans and animals.  He noted that on 28 August 2023, the country’s National HIV Reference Laboratory was designated a WHO Collaborating Centre of Excellence.  Turning to the critical challenge of climate change, he said international cooperation and partnerships are crucial and must include accelerating the uptake of renewable energy sources and investing in clean technologies.  This requires sufficient funding to support mitigation and adaptation, particularly for developing countries.  He endorsed the appeal for developed countries to fulfil their pledge of providing $100 billion annually in climate finance to developing countries.  This also includes fully replenishing the Green Climate Fund.
Regarding the conflict in Ukraine, he strongly urged for an immediate end to hostilities and a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.  He hoped the recent engagement between African, Russian and Ukraine leaders, as well as similar initiatives elsewhere, would encourage the conflicting parties to return to the negotiation table.  Botswana is also deeply concerned with the persistent conflicts and destabilization of legitimate Governments across the African continent.  “It is of utmost importance that the Secretary-General collaborates closely with the African Union and subregional organizations to prioritize and actively engage to foster peace and stability in Africa,” he said.  “I firmly believe that the attainment of lasting peace in Africa can pave way for a more prosperous and harmonious continent.”
Turning to landlocked developing countries, he said next year marks the conclusion of the Vienna Programme of Action for the Landlocked Developing Countries, to be followed by the Third Landlocked Developing Countries Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, in June 2024.  The ongoing global crises have severely damaged the economies of these countries and eroded the progress achieved in implementing the Vienna Programme of Action, leading to persistently high poverty levels of about 23 per cent in 2022.  These countries’ participation in global trade is marginalized by exorbitant trade costs.  They need infrastructure development and maintenance to address geographical and structural obstacles and reach their potential.  He stressed that the upcoming programme is a valuable opportunity to rally greater global support and foster multi-stakeholder partnerships.  There must be efforts to bolster these countries’ infrastructure, particularly transit transportation, information communications technologies and the energy sectors.  “I want to re-emphasize that merely acknowledging global problems without taking substantive measures will not solve them,” he said.  “We require greater action!  The urgent action to revitalize the UN system, ensuring that it is fit for purpose, is now.”
GIORGIA MELONI, President of the Council of Ministers of Italy, situated current global happenings in “complex times of continuous emergencies and change” stating that the leaders cannot afford luxury of lofty principles which have never been realized or easy choices over right ones.  She counselled on the need for Member States to look back at what gave meaning and life to the United Nations in its founding in 1945.  Stating that if two fundamental premises of the Organization — the sense of belonging to a community and the adoption of reason and dialogue towards dispute settlement — are its foundation then member countries “must reject the utopistic and self-serving narrative of those who say that a world without nations, without border, and without identity, would be a world without war and conflict.”
Pointing out that the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine has consequences which extend to other poor countries, she urged that Member States must fiercely oppose the return to the use of force as a tool to resolve international conflict because the war shows that, reason can still prevail against dominion and neo- imperialism.  “It is up to us, each and every one of us, to decide on what side of history we want to stand in good conscience”.  She highlighted the implications of the war on all countries, particularly the poor ones and some in Africa, already bedevilled by the effects of climate change and drought, stating that this is what informed Italy’s stand out of a sense of justice.
The chaos caused therefore makes affected countries more vulnerable to instability, terrorism and fundamentalism, spiralling into forced migrations which provide a fertile ground for human traffickers, who deceive people in search of a  better life and are only concerned with profit margins.  “We want to battle against the mafia in all its forms, and we will battle against this too.  The fact is that the fight against organized crime should be an objective that unites us all,” she said.  Describing human trafficking as the most lucrative venture in the world, she called on the international community to wage a global war against it, pledging her country’s foremost involvement in same.  She announced an effort with Mediterranean and African nations along two main paths:  defeat slave traders and tackle root causes of migration.
Calling for the adoption of “Algor-ethics” — ethics for algorithms — she admonished that the risks posed by artificial intelligence “cannot be lost on us“ as “human intellect today risks being replaced with consequences that could be devastating, particularly for the job market.”  She stressed the need to put in place global mechanism to ensure that it respects human boundaries.  She also called for a reform of the Security Council to ensure a fair geographical distribution of seats.
PEDRO SÁNCHEZ PÉREZ-CASTEJÓN, President of Spain, recalled that on 10 September, a 32-year-old Spanish aid worker named Emma Igual lost her life in the Bakhmut region of Ukraine when the vehicle in which she was travelling was hit by artillery fire, killing another aid worker and seriously injuring two more.  All four shared the same passion:  helping those in need.  Citing that example, he pointed to the “difficult choices ahead of us”, and the opposing options: working together, or looking out for oneself.  Turning to the climate emergency, which is “now in uncharted territory”, he stressed that “we cannot let temperatures increase by more than 1.5°C, and under no circumstances can global emissions peak any later than 2025.”  Calling for an unprecedented technological and economic revolution, he noted Spain is contributing €225 million to the Green Climate Fund and funds for instruments to strengthen climate justice, particularly for the most vulnerable countries. 
In defence of democracy, he pointed to a wave of extremism and reactionary thinking rising all over the world, marginalizing and criminalizing disadvantaged minorities, rejecting equality, as is not easy to combat a movement that has chosen lies, fear and manipulation as its main weapons. However, he drew hope from efforts to uphold the legacy of growth and progress.  This is particularly the case when it comes to equality between women and men, as recent events in the world of sport have shown, and there is no better antidote to reactionary extremism than feminism.  Turning to the 26 July coup in Niger, he cited its serious implications, as alongside Mauritania, it was one of the only countries in the Sahel with a democratically elected Government.  Reiterating support for the mediation efforts of ECOWAS, he also cited initiatives in Latin America including transitional justice work being done in Colombia, and constitutional reform in Chile.
In defence of multilateralism and a rule-based international order, he called for more spending on ODA, with Spain pledging to allocate 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to it by 2030.  The international community must stop thinking of sustainable development financing in billions of dollars and start measuring it in trillions, he stated.  On 31 December 2020, Spain and the United Kingdom concluded a bilateral agreement on Gibraltar, and he voiced confidence that the European Union and United Kingdom will soon reach an agreement regarding the territory.  This agreement must be in line with UN policy on this matter, and Spain’s legal position regarding sovereignty and jurisdiction in relation to Gibraltar.  “Our goal is the development of a prosperous social and economic area encompassing the whole of Gibraltar as well as the Campo de Gibraltar area on the Spanish side of the border,” he said.
On the future of Europe, he reiterated condemnation of the Russian Federation’s unwarranted and illegal war of aggression against Ukraine — recalling that, as a show of support, he had launched Spain’s European Union Presidency from Kyiv on 18 July.  He hailed a Europe that stands on the front line in the fight against inequality and in defending individual rights and public freedoms.  The continent must also control irregular immigration and provide routes for orderly, regular migration, and strengthen its transatlantic alliances with countries such as the United States and Canada, as well as Asian, African and Latin American partnerships.  Referring back to Ms. Igual, who lost her life in Bakhmut, he recalled she was the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who lost most of her family during the Nazi era.  “If there is a place where Emma deserves to have her story told, it is, without a doubt, here before the United Nations General Assembly,” he proclaimed.
PATRICE ÉMERY TROVOADA, Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe, noting the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Maputo Protocol — which concerns the rights of women in Africa — underlined the need to acknowledge the “huge deficit” in women’s participation in political decision-making.  He also pointed out that, despite its binding nature, the Istanbul Convention has “done little to translate the will of the Council of Europe into results”.  Faced with persistent, growing challenges – particularly poverty, hunger, inequality and environmental issues – world leaders must recognize their failure to protect the planet and ensure shared prosperity by 2030.  He reported that his country — a small island developing State — has fallen victim to climate change, environmental degradation and economic dependence. Further, it faces structural problems, asymmetries of all kinds and a people who increasingly lack confidence in democratic institutions.
“We should not hesitate to point the finger” at those responsible for climate disruption within the G20, he went on to say, also stating that global economic governing bodies continue to deny access to financial resources in reasonable quantities under reasonable conditions.  He also spotlighted the increasing fragmentation of global governance — occurring alongside a rise in populism and nationalism — and that digital technology is becoming a new source of inequality, wealth concentration and domination.  Further, coups d’état and attempts to overthrow constitutional order are becoming more frequent, while long-standing conflicts persist in tandem with new ones in violation of international law.  On that, he condemned the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine clearly and without hesitation, citing respect for international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
Emphasizing that, unfortunately, “refugees and the dead are not equal in rights and dignity in a world that calls itself civilized”, he observed:  “Nowadays, it seems that only global pandemics are capable of uniting and mobilizing us.”  Further, the international community has been slow to react to latent conflicts — including that in the Great Lakes Region — and international peace missions are showing their limits due to a lack of clear, effective commitments that favour populations who are the first victims.  “It may be too late, but indifference and hypocrisy are unacceptable,” he underscored, adding that the problems of poor countries tend to become the problems of rich States, too.  Against that backdrop, he said there is still hope if the international community commits to reform — starting with the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions.
Stressing that true leadership means finding the compromises necessary to promote peace and progress, he said that peaceful, equitable societies with healthy, educated young people are in the general interest. “Rich countries have a responsibility, but ours cannot be excluded either,” he said.  He therefore reaffirmed his country’s commitment to actively collaborate with its regional and international partners to eradicate all acts that are inhumane, degrading to people or the environment or detrimental to humanist values and freedom.  He added that the Organization — the “converging centre of our causes” — must lead global harmonization that respects differences in culture, Government models and economic choices.
ALEXANDER DE CROO, Prime Minister of Belgium, said there is reason for grounded optimism based on the world’s recent climate track record, despite extreme climate events and long periods of drought and water stress.  A record-breaking €340 billion have been invested this year in renewable energy globally, and prices of renewables continue to go down.  “We should speed up the green transition instead of talking ourselves down,” he said.  Calling for a “New Industrial Deal,” one of Belgium’s big priorities for its Presidency of the European Union next year, he emphasized that “we need to include our industry” because “we will not build a climate paradise on an industrial wasteland.” He called for partnerships, especially between Europe and Africa, to accelerate the green transition across wind, solar, and hydrogen.  Additionally, to achieve climate neutrality, “we will need both renewables and nuclear.” Belgium will remain a nuclear nation, including through an agreement with its nuclear operator to prolong the lifespan of its two biggest power plants.
On migration, Belgium will seek to conclude a new European pact during its European Union Presidency, rebuilding the current migration model and ensuring every bloc member does its part. Instead of the current “lose-lose” model that “gives all the control and power to human smugglers” to decide on life or death, he called for a “win-win” approach that creates legal channels to Europe and strengthens societies in home countries.  The new model will enforce solidarity, standardize fast-tracking procedures, and work on common European readmission and return policies. While the pact will seek to strengthen the bloc’s common borders, he also called on Europe to partner with countries of transit and origin to address migration’s root causes, including poverty and lack of economic opportunities.  Instead of having young Africans risk their lives at sea for the European or American dream, they should have the opportunity to pursue the African dream.
Regarding international security, the “clear and present danger” is coming from the Russian Federation, which has thrown “all international rules overboard” and invaded its neighbour, as well as executed its opponents and created the Wagner group “to bring death and destruction to Africa.”  In fact, he continued, “what Wagner and Putin are doing to Africa is exactly the same as in Ukraine.”  They are not only denying African countries their sovereignty, but also plundering Africa while increasing the price of grain for the most vulnerable.  “They want to restore the old world order as it was dominated by colonial powers.”  Meanwhile, in the Sahel, a “perfect storm” of terrorism, poverty, and climate change are undermining societies in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. While he noted that “our track record in the Sahel should be reason for humility,” it should not lead to indifference. “The only way forward is to restore the rule of law,” because without it, self-government will never be possible and the Sahel “will always be a potential playground for foreign bullies.”
Reflecting on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he affirmed the decolonization and emancipation of African, Asian, and South American countries as the most important achievement after the World Wars.  “We should protect this legacy” and shield it from new forms of imperialism, he affirmed. “Each of us has a choice” of whose side to pick — that of the colonizer or the victim.  He called on the international community to recognize the Declaration’s true universality and to remember the progress made for common humanity. When the freed slaves of Haiti, for example, finally had freedom to choose their own destiny, they defined living in dignity as living in liberty and equality.  In closing, he urged the United Nations and world to come together to secure progress that works for everyone.
MOHAMMAD NAJIB AZMI MIKATI, President of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon, said this year marks the eightieth anniversary of Lebanon’s independence, and the country has always been striving to achieve peace and prosperity.  Lebanon was one of the founders of the United Nations and had an important part in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In addition to periods of stability, growth, prosperity and peacebuilding, the country has also lived through periods of economic, financial and humanitarian crises, he observed.  Lebanon is now facing many overlapping crises amid a weakened international system and regional tensions that weigh heavily on the Lebanese people.  The country faces a brain drain as many women and men lose hope in the country’s future. 
A primary challenge is filling the presidential vacancy, along with reforms needed to achieve an economic recovery, ease the financial crisis and create institutional and political stability.  He said he hoped the Lebanese Parliament will elect a president around which the Lebanese people can rally.  This would help Lebanon resume its role in the international community.  Turning to the Syrian crisis, he said Lebanon continues to bear the burden of successive waves of refugees.  The international community’s response remains inadequate and falls short of a sustainable solution, he said, calling for all stakeholders to develop a road map to solve the Syrian refugee crisis.  Lebanon, he added, wants to deepen its cooperation with international organizations to exchange information on the Syrian crisis. 
Another challenge is Israel’s continued occupation of southern Lebanon, daily violations of Lebanese sovereignty and its violation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to all relevant Council resolutions.  He thanked the contribution of peacekeepers and all participating countries of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), whose mandate was renewed by the Council at the end of August.  He also welcomed the exploration of oil and gas in regional waters and noted the instances of stability, development and growth in the region. 
The Palestinian people continue to suffer under Israeli occupation, he said, and call for a just solution that includes the two-State solution, as outlined in relevant Council resolutions.  He called for the international community to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and reminded them of their humanitarian and moral responsibility towards Palestine refugees.  Increased coordination and cooperation among Member States is necessary as the world faces cross-border challenges such as security, food security, cybersecurity, illegal migration, extremism and terrorism, and viral pandemics.  These challenges can only be confronted with concerted efforts between Governments, international organizations and others, he stressed. 
FATALLA AF ELZUNI, Minister for Youth of Libya, began by expressing deep sympathy and condolence for the people of his country “in the throes of a disastrous tragedy” following the 10 September floods in the city of Derna.  He also expressed condolence to the people and Government of Morocco over its recent earthquake.  Calling the Libyan floods “a terrible spectacle” and with “torrential rains carrying away a quarter of the city,” he stated that they claimed thousands of lives with people still missing or dead.  The National Union Government has gone to great efforts to cope with the disaster by evacuating people, burying the dead, extracting those covered in rubble, and addressing health situations.  Thanking countries which have helped with rescue teams and medical and logistical support, responding to Libya’s call, he revealed that “the scale of the disaster has fully surpassed all local capacity.”  He appealed to the international community to live up to its responsibility to Libya and help it cope with the aftermaths of the disaster, especially to avoid health disasters being warned of by experts.
Stating that “the greatest values are borne form the greatest sufferings,” he pointed out that since the tragedy, Libyans from far south to far north have set aside political divisions in order to be reborn and transcend wounds of the past, to set course towards the future, and see through the eyes of future generations instead of politicians and merchants of war.  This is “a lesson that we need to pass on to our children to avoid repeating the errors” of past generations, he said.  He stressed that the Libyan people have set an example through solidarity and unity, national cohesion and responsibility, and that their voices must be heard.  Stressing that this symbolized the birth of a new era, he pointed out the need to conduct elections to ensure a unified authority as “it is time for democracy to begin in Libya, grounded in the will of the people, and in sincerity”.

In Libya, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that, five weeks after Storm Daniel brought catastrophic flooding to the country’s north-east, more than 43,000 people are still displaced.
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